Has Coronavirus Advanced or Set Back Women at Work?

Image not found

A paper by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, set out the impact of Covid-19 on workplace gender relations.

It said social distancing was likely to affect sectors dominated by women: childcare and hospitality, for example.

At the same time, “closures of schools and daycare centres have massively increased child care needs, which has a particularly large impact on working mothers.” Some mothers have complained that they have been asked to take parental leave, or furloughed, whereas fathers in the same company have not.

Yet, the long-term outcome might be more complicated and potentially positive for women, the paper suggested. “First, businesses are rapidly adopting flexible work arrangements, which are likely to persist,” it said. “Second, there are also many fathers who now have to take primary responsibility for child care, which may erode social norms that currently lead to a lopsided distribution of the division of labour in house work and child care.”

Such optimism is not shared by everybody. One group that deals with City [of London]-based working parents told the FT it had received complaints from women having “to accommodate [their partner’s] work calls and diaries, step up and be more available during the day but it’s new territory for the couples”. It added: “It’s forcing more questions and more communication.”

Live Q&A

Has coronavirus advanced or set back women in the workplace? Have you made changes to your family and work roles? Have your employers discriminated, or made assumptions about working parents, or child-free employees? The FT’s Emma Jacobs and Laura Noonan hosted a live Q&A to address these questions on May 18. Explore the outcome of the discussion in the comments section of the article, found here.

There are concerns that the return to the office may reinforce gender stereotypes. If women are seen to be the default caregivers then they might discover they are the ones left at home doing childcare while schools remain closed.

Has this period advanced or set back women’s advancement in the workplace? The FT is keen to hear from men and women who have made changes to their family and work roles during lockdown. Has anyone reassessed their working lives as a result of coronavirus? Have employers discriminated, or made assumptions about working parents, or child-free employees?


This article was originally published on Financial Times.

Back to Top