As more men leave the workforce, women are stepping in to fill those jobs

New York

A typical morning in the Schnitzler household begins with David and Alison feeding them 17-month-old Winston. Alison, 33, and David, 32, play with Winston as they both prepare to go to work.

Alison walks out the door with her family medical practice and David, an insurance underwriter, starts his day…as a stay-at-home dad.

“Taking care of Winston, taking care of the house, playing with him, it all comes first,” she told CNN.

Last year, the Schnitzlers made the decision that David would quit his high-paying job to stay home and care for Winston as Allison continued her career. Covid fears for the then-unvaccinated Winston at daycare and two parents working long hours helped guide their choice. Both say they feel lucky to be able to live on Alison’s salary.

“I was kind of at a pivotal point in my career, which made the decision that much harder at the time. Throwing it all away to take care of the baby? Will I like taking care of the baby?’ David said:

Turns out he does, and said the roles they have now work. And it reflects new trends in the workforce for both men and women.

More men aged 30-44 have dropped out of the labor force in recent months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The labor force participation rate for men in that age group is now lower than before the pandemic. For example, in David’s 30-34 age range, Labor Department data shows that 90.2% of men were either working or looking for work in February 2020, just before the pandemic. Last month, that number was 89.8 percent.

Although more men are leaving the workforce to care for children after the pandemic, according to economist Richard W. Reeves, it’s still single digits.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of men taking on these roles, but that’s by no means sufficient to explain this retreat,” says Richard W. Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And so it’s a bit of a mystery to economists what exactly is going on with these people. Some of the leading theories are that they’re pulling back in many cases because of disability issues, mental health issues.”

David Schnitzler says people in his community still struggle to understand that he is their son’s primary caregiver.

“It doesn’t matter, male, female, whatever, everyone has their place. [Allison] has a high level of skills and passion for his work and that’s great. I’m able, in my own way, to support him to be a better doctor,” Schnitzler said.

At the peak of the pandemic, 22 million jobs were lost. The data showed the total skewed more towards women than men because so many women took on the role of caregiver at home when daycare centers and schools closed during the lockdowns. Since then, men and women have regained all the jobs they lost.

And of the 263,000 jobs added to the US economy last month, according to the National Women’s Law Center, 61.6% were women. More women aged 30-44 have joined the workforce in recent months, and at a higher percentage than before the pandemic.

“Fears of ‘she’s giving in’ were largely unfounded,” Reeves said of the idea that women in particular would be adversely affected by pandemic-related job losses. “Women are coming back into the workforce, and we’ve actually seen quite a large increase in the proportion of women in management and senior management positions.”

Women are also taking on roles in more male-dominated industries such as construction. Ava Sedaghat joined the construction industry about two years ago as a project engineer in New York City.

Ava Sedaghat, Project Engineer, Gilbane Building Company.

“I think it was definitely intimidating because my only knowledge of the construction industry was that it was pretty tough and male-dominated. But the more I started working in the field and the more people I interacted with, I think I realized very quickly that there is a place for everyone in construction,” Sedaghat said.

While women make up just 14.1% of construction workers, that’s the highest on record, according to the Labor Department.

Sedaghat is currently working on renovating Staten Island’s Port Richmond Library. Although she said she works with women in her office at Gilbane Building Company, she is the only woman in the industry.

The pandemic changed the way Americans worked and what they were willing to do for work.

Working from home or virtual work is now more popular than ever and no longer has a negative stigma. And gender roles in the workplace are slowly changing. more men are now needed in female-dominated fields such as nursing and teaching.

“We’re going to face some shortages [those] areas,” Reeves said. “So we need more people working in those areas. And there aren’t enough women to solve the labor market challenges in every profession,” says Reeves.

Early next year, the Schnitzlers will welcome a new baby, another boy. The couple plans to maintain their current family roles, but David isn’t counting himself out of the job market for good.

“I will not say that I am out of the labor force, 100 percent, you know, I am retired,” he said. “But for now, we want to give our second baby son the same thing we gave our first, and that’s a parent who can give them 100 percent.”

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