Panel discusses pandemic's impact on Wisconsin women, seeks change

Balancing work and home life took on a new meaning when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with women feeling more adverse impacts than men.

Overwhelmed and trying to balance it all, single mothers are also bearing the brunt. Local and state leaders are sharing concerns, hoping to bring those challenges to light.

Roughly 2.3 million women had to leave the labor force during the pandemic, some depending on food banks, trying to make ends meet.

 "A lot of those women had essential jobs," said State Sen. LaTonya Johnson. "Some of them find themselves not only having to provide care, but work full-time jobs if they are available and also being responsible for children's virtual education."

Johnson, who said women have been disproportionately affected over the past year, was part of a panel discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women.

State Sen. LaTonya Johnson

Truth Freemyn, leadership development and training manager with 9to5 Wisconsin, highlighted some of the major challenges.

"It’s around child care, it’s around unpaid labor," Freemyn said. "Also issues around FMLA.

"Just the mental health of women, what it looks like, when it comes to our grief, stress, anxiety, and fear have all increased tremendously because of the pandemic."

Truth Freemyn

Seeing increases in suicide, addiction and domestic violence, many spoke out Saturday, galvanized to make change and help with ways to find balance. Meanwhile, they look ahead, hoping funds from Gov. Tony Evers' proposed budget can help.

"Those things that will help increase the equitable lifestyle for those families are extremely important," Johnson said.

The panel said funds are needed to address mental health programs, support healthy women and baby initiatives, and increase the minimum wage, to name a few items.

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