Women Hit Hardest In COVID-19 Job Losses & Household Life

Shot of a young businesswoman looking stressed out in an office

While B&T’s Changing the Ratio has been postponed, that doesn’t mean the conversations around diversity and inclusion need to end. In fact, talking about it is more important than ever.

Over the month of May, we’ll be running an article series, kindly sponsored by CHE Proximity and Adrenalin Media, around why changing the ratio is still paramount, even during these difficult times.

Even before COVID-19 came and disrupted life as we know it, there’s no denying women were already working a “double shift” in life. They’d do their 9-5 job, and come home and be responsible for childcare and general home duties. While true domestic/childcare is spread evenly between some households, the majority of the time, it’s not.

Enter: coronavirus. Now women are forced to work a “double double shift”, as pointed out by LeanIn.org co-founders Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas in an op-ed on Fortune.

Now the majority of working women are tasked with homeschooling kids, or caring for ageing relatives, too.

And, it’s starting to take its toll on women.

According to recent surveys by LeanIn.org and Survey Monkey conducted in April, one in four women say they are experiencing severe anxiety with physical symptoms, while only one in 10 men say the same. Over 50 per cent of women are currently struggling with sleep issues.

Not to mention 31 per cent of women with full-time jobs and families say they have more to do than they can handle by themselves. This is in contrast to 13 per cent of working men with families. And while these stats are out of the US, they’re not dissimilar to Australia.

In their op-ed, Sandberg and Thomas write: “Employers must work to relieve this stress. We know companies are under tremendous financial pressure during this economic downturn, but helping their teams avoid burnout and illness needs to be a priority.

“That is how they’ll get the best out of their employees amid all this disruption and retain those workers when the crisis is over.”

At CHE Proximity, CEO Chris Howatson said in times of economic pressure, it’s easy for society and business to regress, and with relevance to this topic, lose the progress made towards achieving equality.

He said: “What we’ve tried to do is look at what new pressures have emerged and whether our existing policies are still relevant.

“For example, for a number of years we’ve supported mums with an extra day of pay (5 days pay for 4 days ‘on the job’) to acknowledge output over time.

“Supporting women financially remains critical, but in the context of COVID-19, there’s a bigger issue – we must better support dads to support mums.”

Howatson said CHEP can’t afford to open up its remuneration policy to dads due to the fact the agency is essentially a small business, adding that with everyone working form home, it wouldn’t solve the extra pressure being put on mums.

“Instead,” said Howatson, “our pre-COVID flexible work policy now has a greater role to play.  It has always encouraged our people to manage to output, not time at desk, and in doing so promoted a culture of flexibility. Take kids to school, or pick them up. Teach your yoga class or fuel your side hustle. As long as it doesn’t impact your client or your work mates, anything goes.

“And so to support women, we’ve encouraged everyone to manage their day as it works best. I have primary school aged boys in my house, and so lived through the horror of the first few weeks of home schooling. Since then we’ve found a new rhythm that is working for us as a family, and works with making ads.

“So our learning so far at CHEP is supporting equality doesn’t require a fast new policy or extra budget, but empathy, maturity and good communication.

Women hit hardest with COVID-19 job losses 

In Australia, women have been the hardest hit gender in terms of job loss, after more than 235,000 females became unemployed in April, 55 per cent of all jobs lost, according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics.

The ABS also noted women were more likely than males to work part-time. Reduced hours were also higher for women than for women, with female hours reducing by 11.5 per cent, compared to a 7.5 per cent drop for male hours.

So, what’s the solution? Well, according to Sandberg and Thomas, managers need to “become leaders” by giving their teams much-need emotional support.

The wrote: “Companies of all sizes can take a cue from the start-up playbook and hold regular ‘stand up’ meetings—named because they’re so short, you don’t sit down for them—to let people quickly share what they’re working on, flag problems, readjust priorities on the fly, and ask for help.”

For example, Sandberg, who is the chief operating officer at Facebook, said the social media giant has suspended its usual performance ratings. Instead, all employees will receive bonuses as if they exceeded expectations for the first half of the year—and created an extended childcare benefit and new leave options for caregivers.

Facebook has also allowed managers across the company to reshuffle priorities on a case-by-case basis.

Sandberg wrote: “Not every employer can or should follow these exact steps, but finding ways to lighten your employees’ loads can make a big difference.”

Special thanks to CHE Proximity and Adrenalin Media for making this content series possible.




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changing the ratio covid-19 women in the workplace

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