Newswise — Sixty-one percent of young women say they are not doing well in the economy right now, with nearly one in three (29%) saying they are not doing well at all. They are facing financial anxiety, stress about finding well-paying jobs, and concern about balancing their careers and personal life in the future. 

The survey, “The impact of the pandemic on 18-30 year old women in U.S.,” and focus groups results are from the most demographically diverse cohort and were gathered by Lake Research Partners, commissioned by Wellesley College, and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. These findings and more will be shared at an upcoming virtual summit on April 1 and 2, “The Economy She Deserves: Building an Agenda for a Women-Centered Recovery” organized by Wellesley, Spelman College, and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College, London.

  • The pandemic fundamentally reshaped young women’s future aspirations and expectations.
  • In the era of the great resignation, the top two expectations for employers include financial compensation and respect; ranked equally.
  • This cohort is postponing having children or choosing not to have them; feel financial security, and the work-life balance necessary to be a good parent, are difficult to reach. 
  • These women have an agenda they are united in—across demographic groups and political partnership—for freedom from sexual violence, affordable health care for all, pay equity for women, and workplaces free from discrimination. 
  • They believe the pandemic will have long-term impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, and yet are optimistic about the future.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused young women to suffer disproportionate job losses, especially Black and Hispanic women,” said Paula A. Johnson, president of Wellesley College. “We continue to see how the economy fails women, whether through gaps in pay, respect on the job, access to affordable childcare, or paid leave. While these women continue to show resilience and optimism, it’s imperative that we push for change to one day have an economy that supports not only women, but all people equally.”   

The survey of 1,000 women ages 18-30 from across the country was conducted online by Lake Research Partners from February 11 to February 20, 2022. Additional findings are available in a video summary by Celinda Lake, founder and president of Lake Research Partners.

The Pandemic Impacts Core Aspects of Young Women’s Lives 

When asked about their top personal concerns, young women—who are in the formative stages of their professional lives—focused on jobs and finances, including 1 in 3 (33%) who are very worried about getting a good paying job. Similarly, the survey found financial security and stability ranks as their top two priorities in life, with women saying being financially secure (94%) and stable (92%) is important, and four-fifths (81% and 80%, respectively) saying it’s very important. 

The survey also found that the majority say being a good parent (78%) and caregiving for parents and other family members (74%) is more important than having children (57%). Focus group participants indicated this hesitance, of postponing having children or choosing not to have them, is because of their concerns about their financial future or their ability to be a good parent because they respect the responsibility of good parenting and the hard work required. Many feel financial security, and the work-life balance necessary to be a good parent, are difficult to reach. 

Redefining the Workplace: Financial Compensation and Respect from Employers Is More Important Than Shared Values 

Young women are unified in wanting employers to provide respect to all employees and a good wage/salary, ranking them as their top two. Nearly 8 in 10 young women (78%) said both are equally very important. They aren’t as concerned with their job reflecting themselves and their values. From a list of ten options that participants could select as very important, having aligned values with an employer was near the bottom (48%), with networking opportunities their lowest selection (39%). 

Intensely Supportive and United on Necessary Policy Changes Despite Political Affiliation

When asked about how important it is for elected officials to address various issues, women across demographic subgroups rank the following as their top important issues: making workplaces free from sexual violence and harassment (82%), passing protection to address domestic and sexual violence (81%), strengthening equal pay laws (78%), and ensuring affordable healthcare for all (78%).

Mental health is also a key issue young women agree upon—nearly 9 in 10 (89%) say mental health is important in achieving their future goals including their economic goals and yet nearly 8 in 10 (78%) believe the pandemic will have long-term impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, 80% find it important for elected officials to expand the availability of mental health services in schools and communities for women and girls.

Optimism Remains, Requires Action 

While many are feeling the impacts of the pandemic on their economic, financial, and mental stability, surprisingly, seven in 10 (70%) feel optimistic about their future. When asked to describe how they feel most of the time these days the top three words were tired (40%), stressed (32%), and perhaps unusually given the current climate, happy (32%). Another 7 in 10 (70%) believe that their personal financial situation will improve in the next five years. 

“Even though optimism remains, it’s imperative that changes to the economy and policies across the country give women the ability to gain financial stability, have the support and flexibility for multiple responsibilities, and avoid unnecessary upheavals to their lives that will require major shifts in aspirations. An economy that benefits women, is an economy for all,” added Johnson.