As we know, COVID-19 has massively disrupted life. Beginning in March 2020, non-essential businesses closed their doors, a huge number of workers were furloughed or made redundant and schools shut with children home-schooled. But why has Covid 19 been especially harmful for working women?

A recent McKinsey report has found that women’s jobs are more vulnerable to the pandemic than men’s. This is, in part because working mothers tend to take on the majority of family caregiving responsibilities, often choosing to work in industries that offer more flexibility as a result.

Of course, the disruption to childcare services, education and after-school programs have been hard on working fathers, but evidence shows that working mothers have taken on more of the resulting burdens and more frequently reduced their hours or left jobs entirely as a result.

Sadly us women are overly represented in the industries that declined the most as a result of the pandemic, for example the retail and hospitality industries as well as the administrative and support services industry which had the highest redundancy rate in the UK (35.8 per thousand employees) followed by the arts, entertainment and recreation industry (30.5 per thousand employees).

This is a concern as there were large gender gaps even before the pandemic, with progress to reach equality painfully slow. Now, without intervention to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on working women, there’s a very real risk of even further harm to the UK and global economy.

How can you and your company help? Employers can help address this by supporting women returning to the workplace but also by reflecting and reviewing a number of things that will support both their male and female employees to thrive.

  • Recognise any errors of judgement within your interview and hiring process
  • Create a culture where ambition and progression is encouraged at all levels
  • Consider and improve your flexible working policies and processes
  • Encourage the use of mentors
  • Introduce corporate benefits such as childcare vouchers and family healthcare schemes
  • Ensure a positive image and gender parity among your senior and executive roles
  • Upgrade from statutory maternity, paternity and holiday entitlement
  • Measure and ensure parity of salaries and career progression
  • Promote, reward and recognise your role models without any human bias

With vast evidence available confirming companies that have higher proportions of women on their boards perform better financially than firms that are less gender inclusive, significant steps must now be taken to address the cause of gender equality. Gender parity will help our UK firms to get back on their feet after Covid 19 as well as boost the recovery and future growth of our country’s finances.

If you are a legal professional considering a change within your career or hiring manager seeking staff, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us to discuss your requirements in confidence.

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