Think Women - the time for action is now

A number of reports and surveys reveal how women are most likely to shoulder the impact of the downturn resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Fiona Murchie responds.

Photograph from the last Think Women event in London
Think Global People Autumn 2020 issue
This article is taken from the first issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.
The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects, published in July 2020, puts the case in stark reality. It is underpinned by years of previous research outputs that make the case for bold action now.Using data and trends for unemployment from surveys in the US and India, McKinsey’s report confirms that women are more vulnerable to Covid-19- related economic effects because of existing gender inequalities.

Covid-19’s impact on women's work 

The nature of work remains significantly gender-specific, with women and men tending to cluster in different occupations in both mature and emerging economies. Female jobs are 19% more at risk than male ones simply because women are disproportionately represented in sectors negatively affected by Covid-19. They estimate that 4.5% of women’s employment is at risk in the pandemic globally, compared with 3.8% of men’s employment.On the plus side, in sectors such as education and healthcare, women are the majority and have suffered relatively little impact.Au20-in-text-bannerThe strong message from the McKinsey research is that the faster policy makers and business leaders act to push for greater gender equality, even as the Covid-19 crisis continues, the bigger the benefits – not just for gender equality, but also for economic growth. Taking action now could increase 2030 GDP by $13 trillion relative to the do-nothing scenario.

What could make a difference? 

Previous research showed the clear benefit of investment in five areas; education, family planning, maternal mortality, digital inclusion and unpaid care work. The McKinsey research further found a diversity dividend for companies. Those in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.Its conclusion is that companies pulling back on diversity and inclusion may be placing themselves at a disadvantage in terms of resilience and the ability to recover from the current crisis; they could be limiting their access to talent, diverse skills, leadership styles and perspective.
The MGI has determined the value of unpaid care work done by women is $10 trillion or 13% of global GDP. Interventions to address unpaid childcare and the imbalance in responsibility for care between men and women could make a difference to softening the impact of the pandemic on women at work, and increase access to quality jobs and careers for the benefit of everyone.Potential interventions include:
  • Employer or state-funded provision of childcare or tax policies that encourage both spouses to work
  • Family-friendly policies, including flexible programmes and part- time programmes, to support workers experiencing an increased childcare burden during the pandemic and beyond
  • Rethinking performance reviews and promotions, as well as senior- and middle-management buy-in to ensure the widescale adoption of changes
  • A professionalised childcare sector
  • Access to basic infrastructure – reduction of time spent on unpaid work, ie in lower-income countries this would include taskslike fetching water and firewood
  • Crucial measures to change social norms about who bears childcare responsibilities.
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Steps to address inequalities

The report goes on to provide steps to address inequalities:
  • Increase digital infrastructure, particularly in emerging economies
  • Address gender stereotypes that inhibit women’s access to mobile phones and improving women’s digital literacy
  • Measures to promote gender diversity in funding for women entrepreneurs, including eliminating biases in recruitment and selection processes for incubators or accelerators
  • Aspecialfocusonwomen-owned enterprises under the stimulus programmes of various countries
  • Enabling technologies ensuring that women have access to the means of identification through high-assurance digital-ID with simple, inclusive registrationprocesses
  • Interventions to address attitudinal biases: efforts to change entrenched, widespread attitudes about women’s role in society.
This quote struck a chord with me, particularly in the context of future trends, like automation, and how these might amplify or even blunt the impact of Covid-19 on women, as well as how the pandemic affects the wages, job security and workplace benefits for both genders.Future-fit-in-text-banner3Our global community is in a position via our Think Women community initiative to make a difference. A difference not only to the career prospects of women working in an international context, but also to help prevent a slide backwards in terms of pay parity and gender inequality. We are rising to the challenge highlighted in the report for governments and businesses to “consider how to safeguard girls’ education, tackle violence against women and protect maternal health – to name but a few.”
Read about how you can get involved with our Think Women Community ‘Make a difference to your career and the futureAttend the next online Think Women Event on 11 November. Register your interest today.To find out how to join, support or sponsor contact Fiona Murchie  or call +44 (0)1892 891334
Think Global People Autumn 2020 issue
This article is taken from the first issue of Think Global People, the new home of Relocate Magazine.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition or read all of the articles on our website.

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