Level 5: The Negative Impact of Covid-19 on Women
Read Time: 3 Minutes
Before the pandemic hit, Ireland’s workforce had never looked more promising to women: Research conducted by the 30% Club - a campaign group focused on closing the gender gap - highlighted the progress being made in the area over the last couple of years, with the improvement of gender balance across all Irish listed companies being 19.1%.
However, Covid-19 changed a lot, threatening to set back the advancement of recent years.
While the effects of the pandemic have been devastating to both genders, the last months have shown that women, particularly those in leadership roles, were disproportionately affected by the crisis. Since women not only earn less than men and also tend to entail part-time and precarious work more often, their income is viewed as less valuable within dual-earning households.
And as schools and child care services have only recently been reopened, surveys administered by The Irish Times reveal a lot of working women were forced to resign to be able to take care of their children. Single mothers have been hit even harder by that, losing jobs at a far higher rate than other families with children.
If women are given the possibility to work from home, that brings another plethora of challenges.
The lines between career and motherhood, office and domestic work are indefinitely blurred. Furthermore, several studies have shown that women working from home, as a consequence of unequal parenting, are more likely to experience interferences while working, work fewer hours, and therefore undergo impediments to their career growth.
Consequently, a higher percentage of women are reporting difficulties with working with their families around them than men. With all those additional pressures lasting on their shoulders, there has been a significant decline in women’s mental health since the beginning of the pandemic: Research by the CSO reveals women feel more ‘downhearted or depressed’ compared to years before 2020, and are 11.9% more probable than men to score their overall life satisfaction as low.
Additionally, sectors like leisure and hospitality, in which many women work, have been suffering big blows. But not only women in typically female professions have been affected by sudden unemployment. On a global scale, an analysis of Harvard Business Review illustrated that women of all kinds of different occupations are 1.8 times more likely to lose their jobs than men are. In May 2020, Women accounted for 39% of global employment but made up 54% of overall job losses!
Now, with the Irish government announcing Level 5 restrictions for the next six weeks, these problems may reach a new peak. So how to prevent further gender disparity over the course of the upcoming lockdown and avoid setting back the progress made in the last years?
The answer lies, as so often, with business leaders. It is up to them to analyze the data and take action.
Enabling flexibility is the first important step, but CEOs have to go further than that. They need to take the pandemic’s impact on their employees into account and try to help prevent burnout. Businesses should also consider how their products could counter regressive effects on gender balance - financial services firms, for example, could make certain their products reach female entrepreneurs. In these difficult times, business leaders should lead by example: It is important to encourage male employees to share the burden of unpaid care leave, remind workers to draw strict lines between home and office life, and ensure their company shows mindfulness to women’s health and mental well-being.
What do you think? Remember to share your thoughts on social media!
Michaela Erechtchenko & Johanna Workneh
(image courtesy of Engin Akyurt / pixabay.com)
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