Same Storm, Different Boats: The Pandemic’s Outsized Impact on Marginalized Communities (Change the Story)

Clockwise from top left: Kismet restaurant in Montpelier will remain closed for the time being; Facemasks made at the Vermont Glove factory for local hospitals; A class at the Heartworks Preschool in Shelburne; Cynthea Hausman at work in her eponymous spa on Burlington’s Church Street; Stephanie Seguino, a University of Vermont economist; Anne Audy was furloughed last month from her job as an early childhood educator. Photos via VTDigger/Heartworks/Cynthea’s Spa/Anne Audy

By Aly Johnson-Kurts, Communications Director, Change the Story

When COVID-19 first came to the United States, some dubbed the virus as “the great equalizer.” However, it has become evident that the crisis we are all experiencing is likely to be most devastating for women, people of color, and people who were already living in poverty and on the economic margins. This week, VTDigger reporter Elizabeth Gribkoff pulled together an impressive overview and analysis of the gendered impact of COVID-19, concluding in her title that As the Covid-19 economic crisis unfolds, Vermont women stand to be hit hardest.

Gribkoff started with data – and here are a few statistics that stand out:

Gribkoff shared stories from impacted workers to illustrate these points. Her interviewees included server Noura Eltabbakh, spa owner Cynthea Hausman, restaurant owner Crystal Maderia, and childcare worker Anne Audy. These women offered their personal experiences with losing their jobs and struggling to maintain their businesses, and the ways they are navigating those challenges. Finally, Gribkoff cited experts, including University of Vermont economist Stephanie Seguino, and the executive directors of Change The Story, the Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women. These women underlined the way that systems of marginalization, particularly those related to gender, lead to disproportionate vulnerability to the many impacts of COVID-19.

A crisis of this proportion can be a turning point for equity and justice – if we steer the turn well. So far we’ve witnessed some people taking advantage of the pandemic to further disempower marginalized groups, while at the same time other organizations and communities have rolled out radical solutions that would have seemed too good to be true just a few months ago.  Our upcoming webinar with Change The Story VT and Equity Solutions we will explore how these complexities can inform our response and recovery planning, and we hope you’ll join us.