As women are more likely than men to work in low-paying and informal jobs according to a recent UN report, the COVID-19 crisis may affect women more. The data highlights that globally, 740 million women work in the informal economy and the global gender pay gap remains at 16%. The closure of schools has increased the childcare responsibilities of working mothers, increasing stress and affecting work productivity. Also, with many countries in lockdown, the risk of domestic violence against women and children increases. UN data reveals that domestic violence has increased by 25% in some countries because of quarantine.
To address the rising issues, the UN urged all nations to put in measures to address violence against women and make it a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.
The UN Global Compact Academy organised a webinar on April 14, to discuss steps businesses can take to support the rights and lives of women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dan Thomas, the Chief Communication Officer for the UN Global Compact led the discussion on the role businesses should take in combating gender equality during the pandemic. The speakers at the webinar included, H.E. Margaret Kobia, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Ann Cairns, Vice Chairman, Mastercard, and Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact.
“The authorities on top of COVID-19 in Kenya are asking people to wash their hands. This puts more pressure on women because in the rural areas women are the ones supposed to look for water. Also because everybody is home there is increased burden on women. Because of this, we are seeing more cases of mental stress.” -H.E Margaret Kobia
“I hope we retain the flexibility of parents working from home after the virus. But that is also difficult for parents. Especially single parents. Single parents are facing increased burden because of the virus.”- Ann Cairns
“Domestic violence has actually increased by 25% ” - Lise Kingo
They shared specific actions businesses can take.
- It is important to include women in all planning and decision making. Companies should ensure that both men and women are well represented in COVID response teams, etc. Diverse teams make better and sustainable decisions.
- Assisting in addressing the effects of working from home. For instance, the likelihood of domestic violence. It is not impossible for companies to support with respect to domestic violence. Companies can direct employees to needed services, including domestic violence hotlines and supporting the health and well-being of employees through constant communication with workers.
- Supporting women in the communities where your business operates and along the value chain of your business processes. This could be by ensuring that suppliers that rely heavily on female labour receive payment for existing orders and additional support to keep afloat and paying workers, where possible. Also, building relationships with female-owned businesses to support h=them during these times of uncertainty.
- H.E Margaret Kobia emphasised the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to respect and support women’s rights beyond the company’s walls.
“The government has accepted that they cannot fight COVID-19 alone. They have called in private sector, civil society and development partners to raise a COVID-19 fund to support vulnerable women.” -H.E Margaret Kobia
“Mastercard has a huge payment infrastructure and we are working with governments to get money into the hands of people who need it. Our technology is helping us find out if our money is landing in the right places. ” - Ann Cairns
- The pandemic is an opportunity for companies to adopt gender-inclusive workplace policies and practices such as remote work or flexible working arrangements. To also, encourage a more balanced share of care and family responsibilities between women and men globally.
“All companies large and small should consider the UN Global Compact’s 10 principles in everything they do during this pandemic. Especially with respect to gender. We have come to a moment in time where we have to agree on what should be the target of the pirate sector when it comes to gender equality. This is a good time for that.” - Lise Kingo