Pandemic Has Spotlighted Inequities for Working Women
Panel discusses how COVID-19 has exacerbated existing economic challenges for women of color and women-owned businesses

by Julia Cardi

Why has COVID-19’s pandemic affected women women of color specifically? And what role does childcare play in an equitable reopening of the economy?

Several leaders in Colorado’s business community on Aug. 18 discussed how the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women, and why that should prompt long-term changes in the professional realm that improve equity for women.

The panel hosted by RISE Collaborative Workspace included Suraya Yahaya, who serves as a fractional COO, Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kristen Blessman, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado president and CEO Lauren Casteel, Colorado Business Roundtable president Debbie Brown, and Alexandra Metzl, a shareholder and chief diversity officer at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

The pandemic’s economic damage has been largely industry-specific, with sectors such as hospitality and retail, which disproportionately employ women, among the hardest hit. Yahaya added companies have also trimmed female-dominated roles across industries, such as marketing and communications.

“A lot of the time, it’s women who are impacted by this,” she said. “And it breaks my heart, because operationally, I try to figure out how to sort of level the playing field. But a lot of women happen to be in these roles.”

The pandemic’s economic damage has also disproportionately harmed women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. Blessman said 86% of women-owned businesses in Colorado have just one employee. Their small size means they are less likely to have established banking relationships crucial to helping them get funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

“They were scrambling to get funding; scrambling to figure out how to develop a relationship with one of these large banks that they didn’t have one with before. And they couldn’t get funding. It was too late,” she said.


This article appears in the Aug. 24 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.