04 Sep The Future of Work for women after the pandemic
Katie Washington, Reputation Leaders
For many women, it already felt like we have to work harder to prove ourselves than men in the workplace. And this was before the pandemic. Now in July, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned that COVID-19 could wipe out any “modest progress” made on gender equality at work in recent decades. The unequal distribution of unpaid care work has worsened during the pandemic with working mums performing more childcare and facing increased job insecurity. Despite initial thinking that men are more physiologically susceptible to the virus, women are also in greater danger of infection as they make up the majority of domestic, health and social care workers globally. Women are less likely to have social security protection, as they make up the vast majority of workers in sectors most impacted by COVID-19. The ILO has also warned that national lockdowns have also led to higher risks of gender-based violence and workplace cyberbullying and harassment for women at work.
In our own June 2020 research on What Workers Want with ManpowerGroup among 8000 respondents in 8 countries, we found that, while almost half of men (46%) feel optimistic about returning to the physical workplace, the same is true for only one-third of women (35%). In our research, women report feeling more scared, concerned or nervous about returning to the workplace after the pandemic, and more women than men say they don’t want to return to their workplace at all. We also found that men are more likely to associate the workplace with visibility for promotion and networking. In contrast, women see the workplace as a place for collaboration and getting work done, and more importantly, a means of separating work from home.
Globally, only 28 per cent of managers and leaders are women today – a figure that ILO has identified has changed very little in the past 30 years. If we don’t act quickly to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on gender gaps in employment, pay, and the burden of unpaid care work, this figure will only decrease. As workers adapt to working from home permanently or returning to the office, employers need to focus on ensuring the workplace remains free from discrimination, gender stereotypes and unfair working policies that may act as barriers to women’s workplace progression and safety.