Compounding crises: How climate change and COVID-19 disproportionately impact women

Compounding crises: How climate change and COVID-19 disproportionately impact women

What do the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have in common? They both disproportionately impact women, especially women of color.

Throughout the course of the pandemic women have left the workforce in alarming numbers and have lost an average of 5.4 million jobs in the United States — 1 million more than their male counterparts. And, women of color are being hit the hardest by the pandemic and by the effects of climate change.

In December of 2020, women of color accounted for ALL of the recorded job losses, and 154,000 Black women left the labor force entirely. Women are expected to balance careers and provide financial support while also being the dominant caretakers of children and family at home. In many communities, especially rural communities and communities of color, this caretaking means tending to the home, looking after children, assisting aging family members, acquiring resources for the family, and providing emotional support.

Similarly, many social, economic, and cultural inequities make women more likely to absorb the very real impacts of climate change. For example, women are more likely than men to face economic insecurity, and people living in poverty are exposed to climate disasters at a greater rate. Women have less access to civic rights and land acquisition opportunities, are less often in decision-making positions, and face systematic violence in every institution. And, the ever-worsening effects of climate change — drought, fires, natural disasters, food shortages — make women’s role as caretakers increasingly more difficult

This is why solutions to both the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic need to not only center and uplift women, but must be made with them! Existing policy and infrastructure must shift to support and elevate women and mothers, and change the culture of caretaking in our country. Creating a world that works for women is imperative to an equitable, sustainable future.

Women are resilient changemakers who shape the face of policy and progress across the globe. Even during a global pandemic, 2020 became a record year of firsts for the United States, with Kamala Harris becoming the first Black and South Asian woman to be elected as vice president, Deb Haaland becoming the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, Katherine Tai becoming the first woman of color and first Asian American serving as US trade representative, Dr. Rachel Levine becoming the first openly transgender person confirmed in a federal post, and many more amazing women taking their place in our government — including, of course, the women legislators of Maryland

The current Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Delegate Adrienne Jones, is the first woman and the first person of color to hold that spot, and she is supported by Speaker Pro-Tem, Sheree Sample-Hughes. President Pro-Tem, Melony Griffith, in the Senate is also a woman of color. Women lead half of the House of Delegates Committees and one quarter of the Senate Committees. In fact, the current Maryland Women’s Legislative Caucus is the largest in our state’s history, representing 30% of the Senate and 43% of the House of Delegates. While this is not equal representation, it is substantial progress from the government our mothers and grandmothers would recognize.

It’s on all of us to build a more equitable and safer planet — and that means centering women, especially women of color. We must also choose to confront sexism, dismantle the patriarchy, and challenge white supremacy, every day.

Here’s to the progress that we’ve made and to the fight ahead!

In Solidarity,

The Women of Maryland LCV