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Don’t Let History Repeat Itself: The Disproportionate Impact of Layoffs on Women

| Content Marketing Manager  
As Paradigm’s Content Marketing Manager, Allison utilizes her research and writing expertise, experience in working cross-collaboratively amongst teams, and drive to create compelling content around diversity, equity, and inclusion.


National Women’s History Month is not just about women’s stories in the past. As we enter March as Women’s History Month, we are facing the risk of an unfortunate history repeating itself: economic uncertainty having a disproportionate impact on the careers of women and women of color. 

Working Women’s Stories Throughout History

In just the last 20 years, we’ve seen two examples. During the 2008 Great Recession, men initially lost more jobs than women. But, when the economy rebounded, the unemployment rate for women continued to rise while men were hired back. By 2009, the employment rate of Black women dropped by almost 4 percentage points. After the 2020 recession, the economy bounced back quickly for many, but the unemployment rate for Black women remained higher than their peers for at least a year.

Now, as a potential recession looms, we are again seeing threats to women’s careers, most pronounced in the tech industry, where hiring freezes and layoffs have dominated headlines for the past 6 months.

Why are Women in Tech at Risk?

As companies like Google, Salesforce, Twitter, and Amazon made tens of thousands of layoffs over the past few months, we’re already seeing the potential impact on women and the erasure of DEI gains made over the past decade.

While women are being laid off at a slightly lower rate than men — Layoffs.FYI estimates 45% of those who lost jobs in the past few months were women — women were already underrepresented in tech: they make up about 26 percent of tech companies’ representation overall and occupy less than a quarter of technical and leadership roles. If headcount is reduced equally among genders, companies are likely to find themselves with a much higher proportion of men in their organizations than they had pre-layoffs.

How To Prevent History From Repeating Itself

As women continue to fight for equity, it’s important that organizations do their part. For organizations in any industry, if they have to make the hard choice to reduce their workforce and want to avoid a disproportionate impact on the women in the organization, they need to think through their approach. For example, because women and marginalized groups represent a larger proportion of new hires for many companies, a “last in, first out” policy presents a challenge. If a company has the ability and resources, they should model the exact impact of layoffs on representation and decide if the outcome is aligned with its DEI goals and values.

Celebrating Women in the Workplace

The topic of women in the workplace is especially relevant with International Women’s Day and National Women’s History Week all being centered around the month of March. We are celebrating valiant women of have set the foundation for this historic month with their empowering roles throughout American history. You can honor women this month by supporting women’s organizations, and community organizations aligned with diversity and inclusion and simply vocalizing when you see mistreatment in the workplace. Let’s start honoring women by making their voices heard and showcasing their tremendous hard work.

Contact us Today

By using data to guide downsizing decisions, organizations have the opportunity to avoid history repeating itself. To learn more about how you can become an ally to women and for ways to continue supporting the national women’s history alliance, contact us today!

February 28, 2023

If you're interested in resources to help you celebrate key DEI Dates, contact us today!