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Frontline Perspectives on COVID-19: A Listening Session with Women & Girls

COVID-19's Impact: Women & Girls on the Frontlines

A Panel Discussion on March 26, 2021

On March 26, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota convened a panel discussion with healthcare policy experts and women working across a spectrum of frontline fields to better understand their experiences, challenges, and solutions for long-term community well-being. In this session, panelists shared how COVID-19 has shaped their lives and work, and experts addressed how the data related to gender & racial inequities in health, economic security, and safety show up in women’s and girls’ lived experiences. This session illuminated how women disproportionately impacted by the pandemic have remained resilient through a year of crisis, and what they need to stay safe and well for the long term.

The session is one of nine convenings as part of WFMN’s Road to Transformation Listening Series designed to listen directly to the experiences of individuals in communities most impacted by systemic inequities in Minnesota. Since the onset of the pandemic and the global movements for racial justice, WFMN’s Road to Transformation was launched to listen, amplify, and invest in the voices and experiences of communities across our state.

WFMN has long invested in research to understand the realities facing women and girls across Minnesota so that we may target community-centered solutions for gender and racial equity. As the wisdom and solutions of communities most impacted by inequities adds to our ongoing research on the Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota, we will expand our understanding of how systems must shift so that all women and girls in Minnesota can thrive.

New research by the Center for Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota revealed COVID-19’s ongoing, disproportionate economic impact on women, particularly for women of color and Indigenous women, who face a dual vulnerability in the pandemic: a higher risk of exposure to the virus at work and of being laid off. As drivers of the care economy, women, particularly BIPOC women, are taking care of Minnesotans—as healthcare workers for tens of thousands of COVID patients across the state, as retail and service workers ensuring access to food, and as child and eldercare providers, including unpaid care workers, who shoulder a disproportionate burden of care work for our state’s most vulnerable residents.

Our 2020 Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota and 2019 Status of Older Women in Minnesota research reports detail the inequities that have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic:

  • Women of color face multiple economic burdens. As service-based jobs are impacted by social distancing regulations, we know that 1 in 3 Latina, Black, and Native women work in service fields earning minimum wage, without paid sick time and other employee benefits, and depend on tips or hourly wages to survive.
  • Women bear disproportionate domestic and caretaking responsibilities. School closures add additional caretaking responsibilities for women and girls who are primary caretakers of both children and elders. Nearly a quarter of full-time working mothers in Minnesota report providing eldercare during the past three months.
  • Home is not safe for everyone. Women and girls experiencing domestic violence and abuse are forced to stay indoors with their abusers with less access to others for help and support. One in two Minnesota women report sexual violence, and one in four report physical violence from an intimate partner at some point during her lifetime. Target Field can be filled almost 18 times with the number of Minnesota women who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking, and that’s before a pandemic.
  • Older women are twice as vulnerable to poverty. Inequities compound over a lifetime resulting in nearly two times as many Minnesota women above the age of 64 living in poverty than men, with fewer resources to face COVID-19. Additionally, older women in Minnesota are more likely to be living alone as they age, particularly older LGBTQ+ women who are more likely to be aging alone.

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