AAUW concerned about pandemic’s effect on women

Local group issues statement


MARQUETTE — The American Association of University Women is concerned about the effect the COVID-19 pandemic is having on women.

Judith Puncochar, president of AAUW of Marquette, issued a statement on the issue.

“The COVID-19 virus is predicted to have a disproportionately negative impact on women and girls,” Puncochar said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, more women are expected to lose their jobs in high female employment sectors of restaurants, hospitality, and childcare.

“Women who are lucky enough to be able to work or study from home may face disproportionate responsibilities for elder care, child care, and housework, in addition to their office work and schoolwork responsibilities.”

Fighting to keep the COVID-19 virus from contaminating living spaces and household members could add a disproportionate amount of stress on women during an already stressful time, she said.

“The American Association of University Women has been fighting for education, economic security, and leadership for women and girls since 1881,” Puncochar said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, she noted, is expected to make that fight for equity longer and harder.

Kim Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women, also issued a statement in advance of Equal Pay Day, which was marked on Wednesday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a seismic shift in our lives and in the U.S. economy,” Churches said. “Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this crisis — as does our promise to work even harder on their behalf. In these challenging times, we are doubling down on our efforts to fight for the economic security of American women and their families, as we have done for the past 140 years”.

Churches noted that this time usually is when AAUW marks the annual Equal Pay Day, when women symbolically catch up to men’s average earnings from the previous year. The AAUW this year is taking a wider view to focus on how the pandemic is amplifying and exacerbating all of the nation’s economic inequities.

“The issues we have long been fighting for are now alarmingly urgent,” Church said. “Low-wage workers — 54 percent of whom are women — are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic as they lose jobs by the millions. Those who’ve been working part time — again predominantly women — often don’t have basic employee benefits, including health insurance coverage. The increasing numbers of gig workers also have no benefits.”

The lack of paid sick and family leave in the United States, she said, is endangering the physical and economic wellbeing of countless American families. Retired women — who are twice as likely as men to be living at or below the poverty line — are more vulnerable than ever. Additionally, the burden of student debt — two-thirds of which is held by women — feels especially onerous for those who are unemployed, she said.

“We are confident that the severity of the crisis will eventually lessen, and as it does, society will turn its collective attention to rebuilding the economy,” Church said. “Throughout the coming weeks, months and years, AAUW will accelerate our efforts to address the persistent and underlying inequities that are crucial for a full recovery. Together we can ensure that we end up with a better, more economically secure world for women.”


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