Gender diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace matter and in these unforeseen and challenging times are more relevant than ever.
It is still too early to measure the real impact this crisis is having on the challenges that women face in the workplace. The economic consequences for women will probably be more severe than for men. In addition to this, we cannot forget the social aspect of this crisis. There is an indirect impact towards women in terms of violence and domestic abuse as we have seen a spike in domestic violence. According to the charity Refuge, since the lockdown, The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help.
We are in a health crisis that affects both women and men but despite women representing 50% of the population they are still invisible. As Caroline Criado Pérez points out in her book Invisible Women. Exposing data bias in a world designed for men, there is a gender data gap. Particularly, and according to Global Health 50/50, the UK hasn’t yet reported sex-disaggregated data related with the coronavirus pandemic. This fact is quite surprising because the effects and levels of risk of exposure to the virus are different between men and women.
Additionally, this crisis has unearthed and accentuated the economic and social issues that women are currently facing. Women’s stereotypical role as caregivers is now more visible. Women are taking care of the family inside the house while also taking care of the society outside.
On the one hand, women traditionally spend more time doing unpaid work (family and household care). Before the crisis, and according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), women spend on average 4 hours and 25 minutes per day doing unpaid care work while men only 1 hour and 23 minutes per day. This has been emphasized due to the present lockdown. Now we are witnessing the unprecedented situation where men and women are sharing the house as a workspace. There still are no studies about how men and women are distributing their time between the working paid and unpaid hours. It will be interesting to see the impact of this crisis in the amount of hours dedicated by both genders to the family care and household tasks. Let’s hope this new situation could lead to an increase of men’s awareness and empathy for domestic and care work.
On the other hand, women are the majority in the front line sectors of this crisis. In the UK’s case, according to the think tank Autonomy’s study The Jobs at Risk Index (JARI) more women than men work in the frontline sectors with a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. Actually, 77% of the “high risk” workforce are women. Also, women are more likely to work in low paid jobs with a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus. In fact, 98% of workers in high risk jobs that are being paid poverty wages (£335/week) are women. Furthermore, and what is more striking, in a great number of higher risk occupations where women are majority, there is still a gender pay gap.
In conclusion, to be able to overcome this current crisis, organisations will have to be much more innovative and creative in order to find solutions and put solid plans in action. There is a business case for gender diversity and a positive correlation between gender diversity within companies and innovation. Therefore it seems absolutely essential to involve women in the management, decision-making, and outcomes of this crisis. In that sense, from diversitas institute we strongly believe that this is not just the right thing to do but the smart thing to do and that is why we encourage organisations to work towards gender diversity.