Lockdown is reversing gender parity – action must be taken
Women are bearing the burden of life in lockdown. We must ensure decades of effort towards gender parity aren’t reversed, warns MNC co-founder Sara Guiel.
Overnight in the middle of March 2020, women were suddenly more put upon than they had been in generations. It was almost as though someone had considered what would make a mother’s life, working or not, infinitely more impossible with any semblance of balance and conjured it up.
The spread of Covid-19 leading to lockdown has exposed the family woman to massive pressures that they never would have imagined. Many working mothers are part time and freelance, so therefore already economically disadvantaged. But with the workforce being asked to work from home where possible while also being asked to homeschool, the movement to gender parity seems to be in reverse.
These new burdens on family women are having an impact both economically and on their wellbeing. Mothers in the UK are taking approximately 10 to 30% more time homeschooling children than their fathers and providing typically at least 50% more childcare*. Dear old lockdown is taking quite an old-fashioned approach to gender parity.
Feeling the financial strain
In addition, family women are far more likely to be on zero hours contracts and self-employed. Their incomes are far more likely to fluctuate and so they are continually worrying how they will cover essential day-to-day outgoings, with food and housing being the most important provisions. With the inevitable restriction of movement and suspension of normal life, this group are now very economically vulnerable, as will be their families.
The pressure in the home is proving to be an unequal struggle. It appears to be the woman taking on more of the domestic and schooling but they’re not working any fewer hours to compensate. It does feel a bit of a backwards slide away from equality for family women.
The uncertainty in the future is not helping. The unknown ending of this new lifestyle is exhausting women and all those taking on the lion’s share of caring as they try to keep up with school work, staying sane, paying the bills that keep coming and keeping wage-earning endeavours up. Mothers are working before the children get up in the morning and after they’ve gone to bed. Burning not only the midnight oil, but also hours either side of it too.
The self-employed, work from home pre-lockdown, business woman was used to this pattern in the school holidays and accepted it was part of the deal. However, the morphing of it into a never-ending pressure ride is something that policy makers need to be aware of. Nobody wants to emerge to a new normality with family women exhausted, and the nation’s children having to cope with the fallout as they grow up.
The government’s Women and Equalities Committee is taking evidence about the different and disproportionate impact that the Coronavirus has had on women. I’ve contributed to the study. Find out more and contribute here.
How have you coped with the pressures of lockdown? Leave your comments below.
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