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Leslie Chiaramonte was a nurse case manager at White Plains Hospital who had to quit last month to watch after her daughters.

Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Women in the workforce are another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

Forced to choose between employment and providing care for their children, most of whom are spending part of the week in remote learning, more women dropped out of the workforce in September than any time since the height of the pandemic in April.

Leslie Chiaramonte gave up her position as a nurse case manager at White Plains Hospital in New York when the cost of a fulltime babysitter exceeded her own salary. Nicole Johnson had to turn down the offer to return to her teacher’s aide job full time because her 6-year-old was on remote learning.

For Stacy Brodsky, a mother of two who had taught pre-K in White Plains, N.Y., for six years, there was never any question that she, and not her husband, would stay home and care for her kids, also learning remotely: “I worked in preschool. I did not have insurance and I did not make that much money,” she said.

In September, four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force, meaning they are no longer working or looking for work, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month.

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Nicole Johnson helps her daughter Khloe, 6, do school work in their White Plains home Oct. 14, 2020. Johnson, who had worked for the past eight years as a teacher’s aide, was forced to give up her job in order to care for her daughter, a second-grader in the White Plains school district who is doing all virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Seth Harrison/The Journal News)

Of the nearly 1.1 million workers ages 20 and over who dropped out of the workforce, 865,000 were women, including 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 Black women, compared to 216,000 men.

Women in all income brackets, from minimum wage to six-figure incomes, were affected. However, low-wage workers tend to have the least amount of flexibility in their jobs. Higher-wage workers are six times as likely to be able to work from home as lower-wage workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute

The ‘second shift’

Working mothers have long faced “the second shift” — coming home to unpaid work that includes household labor and child care — and the pandemic has heightened the caregiver burden with children staying home instead of returning to school. Economists believe this could have long-term effects on the gender wage gap and a woman’s career trajectory.

The situation is made more severe because many women — especially those of color — were laid off in industries hard hit by the pandemic including retail, child