Amid pandemic setbacks, Minnesota women strive to reenter workforce

Top state officials led a virtual roundtable discussion Tuesday regarding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women in the workforce, addressing job loss, unequal pay, childcare challenges and more.

"We know that this pandemic has disproportionately challenged women in the workforce, moreso than men," said Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The DEED reports that in the last year, nearly 600,000 women have applied for unemployment insurance. Black, indigenous and women of color were some of the hardest hit.

From entrepreneurs to nonprofits, women from all walks of life weighed in on the challenges facing some women today.

"We have heard from our moms that flexible work is necessary," said Mary Kay Ziniegicz with Bus Stop Mamas, a tech platform dedicated to career reentry.

"I think so much of this comes down to child care and making it affordable and available and flexible," added Alex Steinman with The Coven.

Now, a year into the pandemic, the state reports that women are more likely than men to be at risk for long-term unemployment.

"There are barriers that women encounter every single day in the careers that they’re going to," said Traci Tapani with Wyoming Machine, a local manufacturing company started by women.

So, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan said now is the time to build a more equitable economy.

"We’re going to try to stabilize but also look forward to what is possible to take this moment to change things going forward so that women have more access to capital, grant opportunities, mentorship programs and more."