COVID-19 hit women harder than men

By Vidir Ragnarsson, Gender pay gap, Fair pay, Creating healthier workplaces.

I have been reading through some statements from the global organizations that are guarding the rights of women.  This crisis like so many crises before seem to hit women harder than men. I am a professional that have been consulting on ways to ensure gender equality.  This does not come as a surprise to me.

The effects of the crisis are gender unique, here are some form it is taking that are gender specific:

  • Women are responsible for domestic and care work. The measures to contain the virus, closing of schools and putting families in quarantines brings more workload on women at home.
  • More than half the world population insulated at home.  This brings a growing “shadow pandemic”, in the rise of violence against women.
  • Schools are closing and those more affluent are using online resources.  There are some indications of boys continuing to study and the domestic and caring responsibilities have been handed down to girls at home.
  • Stimulus packages are not taking into account those unable to work because of more domestic responsibilities, caring for children, the sick and the old.  Women.
  • More women are part-time workers and thus more likely to lose their jobs in an economic crisis.

These are some of the example’s women are suffering in other ways than men in the current crisis.  Power is usually the explaining factor for gender differences. Men are over-represented in all major decision-making in the world.  Although women are 70% of workers in the health and social sectors.  They are not their as decision-makers.  Lessons from other outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika viruses show us that needs of women were largely unmet.  This was largely since their voices were not taking into consideration, they were not in the position to take or affect decisions.

But what teaching can the crisis and its effects on women teach us at the corporate level.  Are there things we in each of our workplaces can do to accelerate change?  Many have spoken about the opportunities the crisis will bring.  As the voices that have been raised here above suggest the “opportunities” of the crisis will probably be based on the current power-structure.  And as it is in regard to gender, unfavorably to women.

I know it is possible to change power-structures and culture in companies to create better functioning, fairer workplaces with improved business results.  It is interesting that one of the common threads in the reports I have been reading is emphasis on gender-based data collection and analysis.

In order to be able to prepare us and learn to adjust to different realities of our employees we need data on those realities.  If we truly want equality in our workplaces we need to measure and analyze data on our employees with the gender perspective. The reality of men and women is different, in the pre-covid corporate world, in the roles in the homes and families and in the existing covid-lock down world.

I have myriad examples of adding background variables, such as gender and age to employee data brings in new realities.  Sometimes experiences are different between different people and sometimes they are not.  If we do not check our data by gender, we do not know those realities.

Bringing gendered perspective into decision-making improves decision-making.  If the decisions also rely on gender-segregated data, we are in for a better-informed decision.  We get a long way with the decision to analyze our data with new perspective. The real game changer is bringing more variety to the decision-making table. Having different people with different background, men and women brings different kind of culture, discussion and better decisions.

When this is over a window has appeared, the courageous will open, the fearing will shut.

There is a window of opportunity appearing.  We have the power to change our little world, our company or our workplace to create a better organization for all employees, not just some.  May we have the courage to open that window.

COVID-19 hit women harder than men

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