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WORKING PAPER: Where Are The Women?

The following Blog post is a Working Paper, and Florida TaxWatch encourages stakeholders and those with expertise in the field to contact the author, Meg Cannan, with any comments or additions that you feel are appropriate. 


This working paper is an endeavor to learn more about Florida’s labor force participation rate of women. Exploring reasons for women’s absence from the workforce can help Florida better understand the needs of its entire workforce. As a working paper, Florida TaxWatch hopes to start a discussion and encourage others to offer their insights about women’s absence from the workforce.

Women are a staple of the workforce. At the start of 2020, women held more payroll jobs than men.[1] With higher postsecondary enrollment rates than men, more women are ready for specialized career paths.[2] Florida relies upon women to perform occupations ranging from office support to nursing,[3] and usually, the number of women in the workforce satisfies job demand.

The COVID-19 pandemic toppled “business as usual.” Business became anything but usual, and although Florida’s economy has experienced a great rebound, the participation rate of women in the labor force did not rebound alongside it. The absence of women has sparked questions highly intertwined with Florida’s economic growth:

  • Why did women leave and how does their departure affect Florida?
  • Does women’s absence from the workforce relate to the Great Resignation and dissatisfaction of the workforce at large?
  • Will these women come back, and if not, what are the long-term effects of losing women—the most educated population—from the workforce?

In this blog, Florida TaxWatch endeavors to explore the first of these questions and encourages others to consider the implications for their own community. In future blogs, Florida TaxWatch will further explore the subsequent questions due to their significant impact upon the wellbeing of Florida’s workforce.

Women’s Departure

With the onset of COVID-19, women nationwide began to leave the workforce. In January 2020, 77.5 million women were in the labor force but, by October, more than two million women left the workforce and five million were unemployed.[4] This disruption was viewed as a temporary stray from normal, but as the country rises out of the pandemic, 1.5 million women have yet to return to the workforce,[5] and plenty of women are still working reduced hours or within downshifted careers.[6] Florida is home to an estimated 170,000 of the women who left the workforce and never came back.[7]

Historically, more women choose to abstain from the workforce than men, but if members of this once active female population want to work but remain absent, there are ramifications for the economy. 

Why Florida Should Care

When women who want to work do not have the opportunity to participate, there are consequences to their absence. Florida should consider how women’s absence affects job demands, businesses, families, and the circulation of money. 

Job Demand. The absence of women feeds a worker supply problem and may be linked with the abundance of vacancies that current disrupt business operations. The occupational groups with the highest vacancies are the following:

  • Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations;
  • Sales and Related Occupations;
  • Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations; and
  • Office and Administrative Support Occupations.[8]

Women are overrepresented in these occupational groups. Based upon recent American Community Survey (ACS) data, women were expected to compose nearly two out of three of the jobs within these occupational groups (See, Table 1). As Florida struggles to find workers to fill these roles in 2022, observing the workforce pattern of women may help provide answers as to how to fill these jobs once more.


Occupational Group

Total Jobs (2020)

Percent of Jobs Filled by Females (2020)

Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations (EAT)



Sales and Related Occupations (SAL)



Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations (MED)



Office and Administrative Support Occupations (OFF)






Source: American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates Public Use Microdata Sample 2019. Ages 25 to 64 in Florida.


There are also jobs of high societal value, such as nursing and teaching, that are still in need of workers. Florida has 14,657 nursing vacancies,[9] and at the start of the school year, Florida was short an estimated 5,000 teachers.[10]  Based upon ACS data, 87 percent of registered nurses and 80 percent of teachers in Florida were expected to be female.[11] These are careers requiring a specialized education so if a considerable number of women leave these occupations, the jobs could be hard to fill.

Businesses. When businesses lose an employee, they also lose money and talent. Some research calculated that the cost of replacement is between 30 percent to 50 percent of the prior employee’s salary if they are non-skilled and entry-level. [12] The cost rises to the range of 75 percent to 125 percent for the loss of a professional employee.[13] If a business struggles to find a replacement, which may be expected for businesses in fields with high vacancies, they could be further challenged by the diminished productivity and morale of an understaffed environment.[14]

Families. Women leaving the workforce could also have an effect on families. National data suggest that many of the women who left the workforce were mothers.[15] This can be of concern since many mothers contribute to their family’s income. Of children 17 years old or younger in Florida living with their parents, around two-thirds have a mother contributing to the family’s income.[16] About a quarter of children 17 years or younger living with a parent live solely with their working mother.[17] If families within these populations rely upon the mother’s income, exits from the workforce could hurt their ability to remain self-sufficient.

Circulation of Money. Women in the workforce are generating earnings, creating an economic and fiscal interest in their participation. When women spend their earned money, they are stimulating the economy. They are also contributing to government revenue in the form of sales taxes.

If the missing population of women is to return to the workforce, it is important for them to return sooner rather than later. As noted in maternity leave studies, the longer a woman refrains from her job, the gaps of experience between her and her colleagues becomes wider, lessening a woman’s competitiveness for raises and promotions.[18] Further, the longer the family is without additional money causes a greater loss of potential spending that could enable self-sufficiency and stimulate the economy.

Reasons Women Leave the Workforce

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of women experienced newfound stress and responsibilities. Within the workplace, 77 percent of surveyed women claimed increased workloads due to the pandemic. [19] Within the same survey, 66 percent of women claimed they were the household member holding the most responsibilities for home tasks.[20] Another study found that even when both partners worked, women felt a greater share of the increased responsibilities during COVID-19.[21] The results of these pressures were higher rates of burn out and exhaustion among women compared to men.[22]

Women with children had an extra responsibility with which to grapple. During January 2020, pre-pandemic times, an estimated 8.6 million mothers in the United States did not partake in paid careers. With the onset of the pandemic, the number jumped to 12.9 million. This increase of nearly 40 percent is significant. In October 2020, a study found nearly a quarter of mothers claiming they left the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities.[23]

Even when women tried to find balance between their work and home life, they had to overcome negative reactions within their workplaces. Nearly half of the women who adjusted their hours for caregiving responsibilities perceived a negative effect upon their relationship with their employer.[24] Pressures accumulated to more than half of surveyed women being unsatisfied with their jobs—compared to a quarter of women before the pandemic—and 23 percent of women considering leaving the workforce.[25]

The Current Population Survey suggests similar conflicts were faced by Florida women of working age.[26] When comparing survey responses from December 2021 to responses from December 2019, a time untouched by the pandemic, nearly 50,000 more women cited they are not looking for work in order to take care of their house or family.[27] Responses also showed an increase in retirement, with nearly 20,000 additional women retired before the age of 65 in December 2021 compared to December 2019,[28] perhaps suggesting staying in the workforce longer was less alluring within the context of the times.  

Despite benchmarks of progress, such as vaccines, reopened schools, and the return of many brick-and-mortar businesses, women are returning to the workforce in smaller numbers. Women’s negative feelings about treatment at work are not likely to pass with the pandemic; 57 percent of surveyed women claimed they planned to leave their current job within two years.[29] When asked how an organization could best support their long-term career in light of COVID-19, 48 percent of women reported wanting flexible working options and 42 percent wanting childcare programs or support.[30] Women are refraining from the workforce, and it is likely that without ways to mediate burnout and childcare needs, it remains a question whether they will come back.

Evolving the Work Environment

As Florida tries to retain all workers, especially within fields struggling to hire, stakeholders should consider structures that encourage continued employment. Long-term employment is not only a concern for female workers but also for the entire labor force. Over 40 percent of the global working population considered leaving their employer in 2021,[31]and the needs of female workers may reflect the needs of the broader workforce.

Flexible work, whether through remote settings or adaptable hours, is a growing preference among workers. A survey of the global population found 73 percent of workers wanting flexible remote work options to remain even after the pandemic passes.[32] When parents were asked about their work preferences, more than half claimed they preferred working from home for at least half the time.[33] Four in ten working mothers reported preferring when both their spouse and they can work flexible hours and share childcare.[34] Not only does flexible work help home life through granting new capabilities, but it there is also evidence that flexible work can help women’s career outcomes, as illustrated by the higher rate of women in remote companies’ leadership positions compared to traditional companies.[35]

Despite the benefits of remote work as a way to enhance flexibility, it should not be treated as a blanket solution. Some occupations are unsuitable for remote work.[36] Some workers report feeling as though they cannot “switch off” work within a remote setting, with 63 percent of working women reporting that their employers judge their performance based upon the time they spend online.[37] College-educated mothers with jobs that could be performed remotely were more likely to exit the workforce,[38] suggesting the convenience of remote work was not enough to retain them. To make remote work a sustainable strategy for worker retention, it must be applied to suitable occupations and increase flexibility rather than increase work burdens.

Another strategy for worker retention is ensuring caregivers have access to daycare. Rising costs and staffing shortages are obstacles that the daycare industry must overcome to become more accessible. Over the past 25 years, the average cost of daycare in Florida has nearly doubled, now averaging at about $245 per week.[39] In the summer of 2021, 85 percent of surveyed childcare workers in Florida reported staffing shortages and 37 percent were considering leaving or closing their program within the next year.[40]

Parents are feeling the effects of daycare’s shortcomings. In 2019, 84 percent of surveyed parents claimed they were overwhelmed about the cost of childcare and the same percent claimed they made sacrifices to overcome childcare struggles, such as taking a second job or cutting work hours.[41] Further, the survey reported 20 percent of parents needing to quit a job and 68 percent of parents struggling to stay in the workforce due to a lack of childcare options.[42] Ensuring access to daycare—and to after-school programs as children grow older—can serve as a safeguard to parents’ ability to work. 

Looking Ahead

Florida has recently lost 170,000 working women. Research suggests hesitation to rejoin the workforce is rooted in the longstanding challenge of balancing caregiver responsibilities with work responsibilities, which may be affecting men as well. Flexible work options and the increased availability of childcare are tools that can help resolve the work-life challenges. By bettering retention of workers, Florida can benefit from the increased earnings and productivity of additional workers. As Florida strives for greater economic growth, the questions revolving women’s labor force participation should continue to be explored. 

Look around your own community and ask, “where are the women?” Share your thoughts with Florida TaxWatch .


[1] Forbes, “Women Now Hold More Jobs Than Men In The U.S. Workforce,” retrieved from, accessed on January 5, 2022.

[2] National Center for Education Statistics, “Student Enrollment: How many students enroll in postsecondary institutions annually?” retrieved from, accessed on January 5, 2022.

[3] American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates Public Use Microdata Sample 2019. Ages 25 to 64 in Florida.

[4] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The Employment Situation—January 2021,” January 2021. Used seasonally adjusted data of those 16 and older.

[5] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The Employment Situation—November 2021,” November 2021. Florida TaxWatch subtracted the number in the workforce in November 2021 from January 2020: 77,500,000 – 76,041,000.

[6] McKinsey and Company, “Women in the Workplace,” 2021.

[7] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS) Basic Monthly. Florida TaxWatch viewed answers to whether persons were in the labor force with vintages December 2019 and December 2021, restricted to the working age population and filtered by gender and state. Florida TaxWatch estimated the change of women in the workforce by subtracting the females who were in the workforce December 2021 from the women in the workforce December 2019: 4,229,845 - 4,059,727 = 170,108. See,,PRCIVLF&wt=PWSSWGT&g=0400000US12

[8] Florida Insight, “Skills Gap and Vacancy Data,” retrieved from, accessed on January 7, 2022.

[9] Florida Insight, “Skills Gap and Vacancy Data,” retrieved from, accessed on January 14, 2022.

[10] Florida Education Association, “Teacher and Staff Shortage,” retrieved from, accessed on January 14, 2022.

[11] U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 1-Year Estimates, 2019. Data was restricted to the working-age population and filtered by gender and state. To estimate the percentage of female teachers, the following occupation were compiled: Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers, Elementary and Middle School Teachers, Secondary School Teachers, Special Education Teachers, and Other Teachers and Instructors. The percentage was found by dividing the count of females by the total count within each occupation or occupation group. See,,SEX&rv=OCCP(2300,2310,2320,2330,2360,3255)&wt=PWGTP&g=0400000US12.

[12] G & A Partners, “How much does employee turnover cost?” retrieved from, accessed on January 5, 2022.

[13] G & A Partners, “How much does employee turnover cost?” retrieved from, accessed on January 5, 2022.

[14] Forbes, “How To Survive An Understaffed Office,” retrieved from, accessed on January 5, 2022.

[15] U.S. Census Bureau, “Moms, Work and the Pandemic,” March 2021.

[16] U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS), 1-Year Estimates (2019). See,,1:17)&rv=ucgid,ESP(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)&wt=PWGTP&g=0400000US12. Florida TaxWatch found the sum of variables that included working mothers and divided it by the state total number. 

[17] U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS), 1-Year Estimates (2019). See,,1:17)&rv=ucgid,ESP(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)&wt=PWGTP&g=0400000US12. Florida TaxWatch divided the category “Mother in labor force” by the total number of households with persons 17 or younger living with their parent.

[18] Harvard Business Review, “Do Longer Maternity Leaves Hurt Women’s Careers,” retrieved from, accessed on January 5, 2022.

[19] Deloitte, “Women @ Work: A global outlook,” 2021.

[20] Deloitte, “Women @ Work: A global outlook,” 2021.

[21] McKinsey and Company, “What we lose when we lose women in the workforce,” June 2020.

[22] McKinsey and Company, “Seven charts that show COVID-19’s impact on women’s employment,”, accessed on January 6, 2022.

[23] Bipartisan Policy Center, “Impact of COVID-19 on the Workforce,” October 2020.

[24] Deloitte, “Women @ Work: A global outlook,” 2021.

[25] Deloitte, “Women @ Work: A global outlook,” 2021.

[26] The data points from the CPS are based upon women within the working age population, which is ages 25-64 years old.

[27] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS). Florida TaxWatch compared vintages December 2019 and December 2021 for the answers to reasons persons were not in labor force, restricted to working age population and filtered by state, gender, and persons out of the workforce for reasons other than retirement and disability. See,,PESEX(2),PEMLR(5,7)&rv=PENLFACT&nv=PELKLL2O&wt=PWCMPWGT&g=0400000US12.

[28] U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS). Florida TaxWatch compared vintages December 2019 and December 2021 for number of persons retired, restricted to working age population and filtered by state and gender. See,,PESEX(2),PEMLR(5,7)&rv=PENLFACT&nv=PELKLL2O&wt=PWCMPWGT&g=0400000US12.

[29] Deloitte, “Women @ Work: A global outlook,” 2021.

[30] Deloitte, “Understanding the pandemic’s impact on working women,” October 2020.

[31] Microsoft, “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” March 2021.

[32] Microsoft, “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” March 2021.

[33] Institute for Family Studies, “Homeward Bound: The Work-Family Rest in Post-COVID America,” August 2021.

[34] Institute for Family Studies, “Homeward Bound: The Work-Family Rest in Post-COVID America,” August 2021.

[35] Fast Company, “How Remote Workplaces Benefit Women,” retrieved from, accessed on January 12, 2021.

[36] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Teleworking and lost work during the pandemic: new evidence from the CPS,” July 2021.

[37] Deloitte, “Women @ Work: A global outlook,” 2021.

[38] The Guardian, “Quitting is just half the story: the truth behind the ‘Great Resignation,’” retrieved from, accessed on January 12, 2022.

[39] First Quarter Finance, “Daycare Costs per Week by State and Age Group + How to Reduce Costs,” retrieved from,%20%20%24208%20%2047%22more%20rows%20, accessed on January 6, 2022.

[40] National Association for Education of Young Children, “State Survey Data: Child Care at a Time of Progress and Peril,” September 2021.

[41] The Penny Hoarder, “How High Are Child Care Costs? 40% of Parents Have Gone Into Debt Over It,” retrieved from, accessed on January 6, 2022.

[42] Bipartisan Policy Center, “Child Care is a Business Affair,” December 2021

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