The COVD-19 pandemic like any other global crisis grossly affects women and girls. The economic effect of the pandemic is already affecting the progress made in the fight against gender inequality. Women makeup 39% of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses. The burden of unpaid care is highly carried by women. Hence a reason for this disproportionate balance.
Are women more exposed to the virus than men?
In the health sector, there are more women as frontline workers than men. Across Europe, women are potentially more at risk of infection because they make up the majority (76 %) of healthcare workers.
Men and women face different levels of exposure to COVID-19 because of gender segregation in the labour market. The proportion of women is very high in care occupations. Care occupations are one of the most undervalued, and underpaid jobs in the EU. According to the European Institute for Gender and Equality, about 76 % of the 49 million care workers in the EU are women. This is not different in most if not all African countries. Most of the essential workers in the informal sector are women. they are most likely to face greater exposure to the virus during this period. The increasing challenges women face in caring professions need to be recognised.
Despite the growing awareness of support for greater gender equality, tangible progress toward equality in work and society stagnated in the five years between 2014 and 2019. Overall, there is more improvement in gender equality in society as compared to gender equality in work.
With COVID-19, women’s employment is dropping faster than average irrespective of the type of job. As Covid-19 has disproportionately increased the time women spend on family responsibilities, women have dropped out of the workforce at a higher rate than explained by labor-market dynamics alone.
Also, women-owned businesses in developing economies account for a huge proportion of female labor-force participation. As family resources are scarce during this period of uncertainty, traditional mindsets may be reflected in decisions at the organisational level and even in families about who gets to keep their jobs.
How to support women during these times?
Business owners need to understand what women are going through during this period.
Why are they requesting to leave more? Why are they sending in resignation letters more?
Understanding the root cause of such issues can help businesses draft better strategies in supporting women in their organisation.
Several companies have considered flexible working arrangements to help employees manage the impact of the pandemic. Effective support systems that helped employees before the pandemic should be reinvented for remote work.
Business leaders should encourage their employees to share the unpaid care burden openly and willingly. Mental health and well-being should be a priority of every business during these times.
This global health crisis can be used to accelerate progress towards a gender-equitable future as supported by SDG 5, and change perceptions about gender roles and stereotypes.
Greater gender equity makes everyone better off. Join the movement. Make your company more inclusive and supportive of women’s careers.