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The Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and TARRA, a Denver-based women’s professional and business network, held a virtual event on Feb. 9 to discuss the challenges women in the workforce have faced due to the pandemic.

Women worldwide quit or lost their jobs at a higher rate than men, and are 24 percent more likely to permanently lose their jobs because of the pandemic, said a new report produced by CWCC, TARRA and researchers from Metropolitan State University of Denver. The organizations and academics hosted a series of roundtable discussions and interviews with people in the Denver workforce and business communities during 2021 to identify key issues that present barriers to working women during the pandemic, and offer solutions to business leaders on how to better support them. 

Expectations for women to assume the role of caregivers when schools or childcare facilities shut down were a central cause of women deciding to or feeling forced to leave the workforce during the pandemic, wrote Annie Butler, chair of the Human Services Department at MSU Denver and Cate Hill, a graduate assistant in the department, who co-authored the report. 

About seven months into the pandemic, American mothers ages 24 to 39 were nearly three times more likely than fathers of the same age to say they could not work during COVID-19 due to the closures, the report said. To address this issue, attract more women to the workplace and retain female employees, business and political leaders should consider implementing company- or government-funded childcare, the report said. 

A panel during the CWCC and TARRA event also made several suggestions for women business owners to secure funding and investment, such as seeking out government grants set aside for underrepresented groups in business. The report provided a list of organizations in Colorado that support women-owned businesses.