LOS ANGELES — Picking up and delivering food to customers is a stark contrast to how Jackie Randles used to spend her days before the pandemic. She provided personalized child care to families in Los Angeles for over 10 years and it was a career she loved.
“I have a connection,” Randles said. “Since I was a child myself, really, kids just kind of migrated towards me.”
She did everything from teaching activities to driving kids around. Right when the pandemic hit, she was burnt out and wanted a break.
“The universe works wonders and I got it and I was like, 'OK, well, two-week break.' I’ve been wanting it so you know, I’m going to take it,” she said. “But then when two weeks went into two months, four months…”
Randles says it was time to find work, especially with a full house that includes her husband, son, daughter, 7-month-old granddaughter and her daughter’s boyfriend. But she also needed something flexible. That’s when her son told her about driving for DoorDash.
Randles is part of a growing number of women seeking flexible work such as delivery driving. As of February, 2021, 5.3 million women have left the workforce, compared to February 2020, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. A Gallup analysis shows two of the reasons are that women are overrepresented in industries that experienced high unemployment during the pandemic, including personal care, and that women often take on a caregiver role and had to take care of children, forcing them to stay at home.
Flexible work, such as delivery driving, provides a way for many to make money while juggling responsibilities such as child care.
Aaron Hageman, CEO of Delivery Drivers, Inc, says he’s witnessed the explosive demand for drivers in the gig economy during the pandemic. His company is based in Irvine and hires independent contractors for companies to deliver goods to customers across the nation – everything from groceries to pharmaceutical products.
He says 52% of their drivers are female.
“But just five years ago, we went back and looked at one of our 2015 surveys and at the time, 24% of the population were women drivers so in many ways its doubled,” Hageman said.
His company is trying to keep up with demand by hiring 140,000 drivers by the end of 2021. Hageman says the work is appealing for several reasons, including low barrier to entry.
“A couple of quick qualifications and maybe a background check if you are delivering pharmaceuticals or something like that, you’ll be able to slide right in and get working real fast,” he said.
Randles says even though she misses caring for kids, she loves the independence of her new work.
“It’s funny 'cause I look at it like the Mario Brothers where the little guy is running and grabbing the cash from the sky so I’m feeling like every time there is a ping for me to go get a delivery, I am like, 'there’s a little bit more. There’s a little bit more,'” she said. “I’m not sure if it’s going to be my long term, but right now, it’s working.”