(Photo by Ryan Nam)
La Cañada High School

Opinion: 2020 signals a poor future for gender equality

President-Elect Joe Biden seems to be breaking barriers for women. His communications team is entirely made up of women, including many women of color.

Neera Tanden is the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Cecilia Rouse and Heather Boushey are the Council of Economic Advisors and Janet Yellen is his treasury secretary.

The list of women in powerful positions goes far longer than that, but are womens’ rights moving in the right direction?

Unfortunately, in 2020, the prospect of equal opportunity looks rather grim. Despite promising actions brought about by the Me Too movement, the COVID-19 pandemic has set women back severely in the workplace.

According to the Center for American Progress, the number of women who dropped out of the labor force because of the pandemic is four times that of men. The reason for this is primarily because mothers still take the brunt of the responsibility for childcare. Because children are no longer in school or have access to daycare, many women are being forced to leave their jobs.

This is specifically harmful to lower income women, women of color and single mothers who are the most likely to leave the labor force. While this is clearly problematic for women today, it also has serious long term consequences.

The New York Times found that this pandemic could set womens’ progress in the workforce back at least ten years. Even when daycares and workplaces reopen, women will not have the same opportunity to re-enter. The gender pay gap will only worsen, even as some women are able to re-enter their jobs, because they will be considered less experienced as the men who had the opportunity to stay.

A Study by the Institute for Women’s Policy research quantified the impact, discovering that a gap of four years or more leads to a 65% reduction in annual earnings.  

The combination of a global pandemic and a packed, conservative court also leaves women in a dangerous position. When Justice Ginsburg passed away, the Supreme court became a 6-3 conservative learning body. Many essential court cases will be heard in the next few years and, unfortunately, Roe v. Wade may be one of them.

When Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court women everywhere were shocked at the response, most notably the heartbeat ban in Alabama. Now that the court is even more conservative, with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the backlash has only grown stronger.

On March 23, Texas declared abortions as a “non-essential service” because of the pandemic. Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas all followed suit. Although many of these laws have been struck down, they are currently being contested and could possibly make their way to the Supreme Court.

In Congress, groups focused on abortion rights have begun to spend big to fight the Supreme Court. 2020 could be the year that women go back to pre-1970 conditions and the entire country will see even more people die as a result. 

The pandemic has also exacerbated the structural violence against women, and specifically against Black trans women. Because of stay at home orders and work closures, domestic violence has skyrocketed. And as LA County, and many others across the country, goes under another stay-at-home order, the instances of abuse will only get worse.

However, even with this reality, the government and country does not appear to give the issue much weight. Since the Trump Administration took office, the federal Office of Violence Against Women has not released any new reports. The CDC has also not taken any action to study the issue as the epidemic that it is.

Not only is intimate partner violence rising, without any action against it, but this year killing of transgender people, mostly trans women, is the highest it has ever been. Just In the year 2020, there have been 37 known deaths so far.  

The violence against trans women, and specifically against trans women of color, is a structural, layered issue. To combat this crisis, there needs to be policy for safe, affordable housing and an effort to provide economic opportunity to the most marginalized group in our society.

Not only has little action been done on this issue, but the pandemic only exacerbated it. When the life expectancy of Black trans women still remains at around 30-35 years old, 2020 is clearly not the year of the women.