In this article, we’ll talk about:
- How the scenario of women in the labor market has regressed in recent months as a result of the health crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus;
- The burden of care for the family effects on women;
- The medium and long-term repercussions of female’s recent work achievements;
- 5 actions to apply now to contain this social crisis.
“Women have not returned to the jobs they occupied in the pre-Covid-19 scenario,” said Anita Bhatia, UN Deputy Executive Director at UN Women, when talking about their situation in the labor market. According to Bhatia, despite the economic recovery observed in some countries, the return has been in very small numbers. She warns that this situation tends to be even more critical in developing countries such as Brazil.
A headline in the OGlobo newspaper says that the pandemic has left more than half of women out of the workforce in Latin America. Reading this article makes us want to better understand this recent phenomenon in our society. What would be the causes and consequences of this withdrawal of women from the labor market? And how to stop this situation that increases the difference between men and women in the professional environment?
The idea of this article is to shed light and increase the awareness of all of us, both women and men, about the perverse outcome of the 2020/2021 pandemic crisis in reducing female participation in the labor market. In addition, we propose 5 actions to do our part in the name of fairer opportunities between citizens in the market.
The scenario of women working in the pandemic
You probably know a woman who has been fired, or ended up leaving her job over the past few months for taking on household and family activities. Unfortunately, she is not alone. According to UN data, in Latin America alone, the number of women outside the labor market jumped from 66 million to 83 million during the pandemic.
One of the causes pointed out for this phenomenon comes from the fact that social isolation and measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 have affected more strongly sectors with a higher prevalence of the female labor force, such as retail, tourism and services. In August 2020, according to the Datafolha survey commissioned by the C6 bank, indicated that 18% of women have lost their jobs so far, while 11% of men have been laid off.
The current instability tends to worry women more about their professional future. When asked about their concern about their professional lives, 49% of men said they were concerned, while 59% of women gave the same answer.
Another factor of equal relevance for the exit of women from the labor market is due to the fact that the burden of care has increased significantly, especially for professional mothers. According to the Datafolha survey, 57% of women who were working remotely said they had accumulated most of the home care; among men, the percentage is 21%.
The burden of care as (still) a female responsibility
Since the schools were closed, most women have been forced to reconcile the domestic routine with their professional activities. In the case of women with children, this meant managing remote work responsibilities with children in homeschooling.
The overload of stressful tasks and lack of support network, in a context of anguish and fear by Covid-19, led women to suffer from tiredness, physical and mental exhaustion, negatively impacting their other spheres of socialization, including work.
According to the research “Women’s lives in the pandemic”, 50% of women started to support or take responsibility for the care of another person during the pandemic: 80.6% with a relative, 24% with a friend or 11% with a neighbor.
When we speak of lower social classes, the scenario becomes even more complex and distressing: countless families are led by women who, in situations of underemployment or informality, found themselves without their jobs during the pandemic and without a support structure with their children. Whole families crossed the poverty line, intensifying hunger and misery in Brazilian cities.
The effects of the reduction of women in the labor market
According to the UN Women executive, if countries included more females in the work environment and they were as engaged as men, the global GDP could grow by around US$ 13 trillion.
Basically, these positive effects on income and economic progress are due to greater plurality in decision-making environments, increased family income, more years of schooling for the population, reduced violence and greater health care. In addition, we would be in a society more consistent with principles such as freedom and equal rights for all.
5 actions to reduce the evasion of women from the labor market
In addition to demanding greater speed in vaccination against Covid-19, individuals, organizations and companies can also influence this scenario of increasing the role of women in the labor market. Here, we enumerate some measures to be practiced right now:
- Be flexible with schedules
Considering that mothers are with their kids at home, most of the time without any support, executive leadership should be more flexible with working hours. In other words, management should be more based on results and deliveries, and less focused on strict schedules. This alone facilitates the situation for women in their double or triple journeys. The emphasis of the work changes from control to trust, generating more mature and responsible professionals.
- Give emotional and psychological support
Assessing how your employees are from an emotional point of view, whether with individual conversations or through coaching specializing in well-being and psychological support, can create a more welcoming environment in your team.
- Support the domestic demands of your male employees
Men also need to take their children to doctors, they can be responsible for homeschooling or even care for their parents in an illness situation. Understand and support your employees in those moments when they assume this category of activity, making this behavior normal as that observed with female employees.
- Encourage women-specific mentoring programs
The creation of a group of executives who can support women professionals in their dilemmas and career problems can be a way to provide a network of sorority and support to these workersamid the insecurities and challenges of corporate life.
- Encourage actions by women entrepreneurs
Give preference to the products and services of women entrepreneurs. These micro and small companies are often led by women who are in career transition, mothers dismissed after returning from maternity leave, mothers who are heads of the family.
Let’s do our part
Although our society has moved towards greater participation of women in the work environment and greater diffusion of the need for men to assume domestic roles, it burdens women unequally when it comes to home and children .
Be it due to family traditions, the cultural issue, the role of religion in families, work environments that are not inclusive, it does not matter: who ends up supporting family care is still the mother, unfortunately. The pandemic opened up just how much we still need to evolve as a society.
The government has a relevant role in vaccinating the population and in creating social protection measures for families impacted by Covid-19. However, business and civil society have an indispensable role to change this negative trend, which can reverse a decade of (limited) advances in the presence and leadership of women in the labor market.
Co-authored with Sandra Milena Acosta
Sandra has worked for more than 12 years in the strategic planning and risk management of global financial institutions. Master in Economics from UFPR, graduated in Economics from UNICAMP and post-graduated in Digital Marketing from Kellogg Executive Education, she recently went through a career transition and is now a Writer of Chronicles, Children’s Literature and Poems. All of her work is available on her Instagram page (@sandramtca) and on Medium.