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Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Decades of the slow economic progress women made catching up to men evaporated in just one year.

Why it matters: As quickly as those gains were erased, it could take much, much longer for them to return — a warning Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen issued today.

  • What they're saying: "We're really concerned about permanent scarring from this crisis," Yellen said at an International Women's Day event — referring to the possibility that scores of female workers who left the labor force won't return.

The risk: "When women are not maximized in the labor force, they are earning less, they are spending less, there's less tax revenue. And there's less economic growth," Nicole Goldin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Program, tells Axios.

Catch up quick: Female workers haven't been hit this disproportionately hard by a recession in at least 40 years.

  • In the U.S., the workforce gender gap shrank in prior downturns — a quirk that only happened because men lost their jobs at a higher rate, which brought them closer to the level of female workers.

What's happening: This time, the global lockdown annihilated industries that are heavily concentrated with female workers: retail, restaurants, etc. (That also meant female-owned small businesses — also concentrated in these areas — saw more grim prospects.)

  • In addition, more often than not, women gave up jobs to take care of children as schools and daycare centers closed.

How it played out: Employment loss for women around the world stands at 5% — over a full percentage point higher than that for men, according to the latest estimates by the International Labour Organization.

  • "Other advanced economies have managed a lot better than the United States," Simeon Djankov, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), tells Axios.
  • The U.S., Canada, Italy and Japan are among the other advanced countries that saw worse labor force declines for female workers.
  • A group of other countries — including the U.K., Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands — actually saw the gender gap in their labor force in aggregate shrink by 0.9 percentage points.
  • That’s partly because of government programs that shored up female-dominated sectors or supported child care services, according to a report released by PIIE today.

The pandemic erased 30 years of progress for the U.S. female workforce in the space of a few months.

  • The proportion of women with jobs — or actively looking for one — hasn't been this low since the late 1980s.
  • As of February, the number is 55.8% — slightly better than the lowest point since the pandemic (55.3%).

The inequality within the inequality: The U.S. unemployment rate for white women is 5.2% — lower than the national 6.2% rate.

  • The story is much different for women of color: Black women have an unemployment rate of 9.1%. It's 8.6% for Hispanic/Latino women. The gaps with white women are wider now compared to pre-pandemic.
  • Of note: Wages for front-line Asian American/Pacific Islander female workers were up to 21% less than their white male counterparts, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute said today.

The bottom line: Economists say the she-cession threatens to hobble a full post-pandemic recovery.

Go deeper

Updated 12 mins ago - Sports

U.S. swim team wins 6 Tokyo Olympics medals, including 1st gold

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him.

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau will miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States on the 18th tee during Day Two of the 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club on July 16 in Sandwich, England. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Tokyo Olympic Games, USA Golf announced late Saturday.

What's happening: "Patrick Reed will replace DeChambeau and is undergoing the requisite testing protocol" Sunday and Monday before his expected departure for Japan, per a USA Golf statement.

In photos: Scenes from some of the worst fires raging in the U.S.

A home explodes into flames as the Dixie Fire rips through the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California, on July 24. The blaze started near the origin of the deadly 2018 Camp Fire and has churned burned over 185,000 acres. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Out-of-state crews went to Montana to tackle a wildfire that wounded five firefighters as Australia sent a large air tanker to help Californian firefighting efforts, as 88 large blazes raged in the U.S. Saturday.

The big picture: Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) tweeted his thanks to Utah and California for sending crews over the weekend, as the two states battle their own blazes. The Australian tanker arrived in Calif., this week, where Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) proclaimed a state of emergency for four northern counties Friday.