Women bear the brunt of the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, but you can lighten the burden.
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5 min read
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COVID-19 is a one-off type of crisis, and there is practically no element of life that has not been disrupted in any way. On the positive side of the pandemic, the virus can challenge us to abandon toxic or inefficient systems and develop entirely new, sustainable and socially beneficial ways of life.
Experts now understand from COVID-19 data that the virus affects certain groups such as African Americans disproportionately. It is also clear across a wide range of populations that there is a gender gap in terms of the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. Consider the following:
A report by the United Nations claimed that women are feeling the financial impact of the disease more strongly, that women's disrupted access to health services can negatively impact well-being, unpaid care work has increased, and violence against women has increased as the pandemic has led to it forces to shut down offenders. Melinda Gates reiterated those views in her foreign affairs article, noting that women worldwide are 1.8 times more likely than men to quit their jobs because of the virus. Due to the dramatic rise in domestic violence, the World Health Organization has launched a public awareness campaign on its website to help women get away from abusers during the pandemic. A report by the Boston Consulting Group found that the time parents spend on education per week practically doubled from 30 to 59 hours – 15 hours more per week than men. NPR reports that women accounted for nearly 60 percent of the layoffs that occurred in the first wave of pandemic layoffs, also because women make up a large number of high-contact positions.
Here's what you can do as a business leader to help the women in your organization.
1. Offer alternative childcare and educational opportunities
Consider paying for a part-time nanny or tutor. This can give women the freedom to not only do other household chores, but also to focus on working from home and engaging in training, academic courses, and business developments. Business loans, new investor assistance, and emergency programs can potentially defer the cost. Or, you can find funding by reducing inefficient, unused internal resources and programs.
2. Provide subscription services
By offering meal sets or grocery delivery programs, Pro versions of apps and databases for companies, goals or organizations can simplify work, save time and provide resources that help them succeed. As with childcare and education, other sources can help cut your spending, and tools like surveys can identify the services that women value most.
3. Tap your mentor network
Introduce women to other professionals who can mentor or train and hire new employees. Even if your budget forces you to downsize, it shows that women you care about outside of your company are creating new sources of support and helping them move into positions that will further accelerate their careers.
Related Topics: Virtual Management of Your Company Culture Through a Pandemic
4. Kick the men out of the traditional office (and into a home office).
Matthias Doepke, an economist at Northwestern University, told the New York Times that men who can work from home do about 50 percent more childcare than men who can't. So by advocating remote work for men, where it makes sense to do so on a voluntary basis, you are directly or indirectly helping to fill the childcare void that continually confuses working mothers. Combining it with a more independent, results-oriented schedule for men and women can lead to less stress and increase everyone's productivity. Companies like Salesforce and PepsiCo have already signed a commitment to use this type of flexible setup.
Related: 5 Ways To Build Team Culture In A Remote World
5. Offer extra security
Women are more concerned than men about their mental well-being and performance reviews. They understand how difficult it is to stay in the corporate game and are aware of the prejudices in the business world that are holding them back. So do everything you can to make sure they know you are seeing their posts and that you continue to be a resource and advocate for them. This can alleviate some of women's mental fatigue.
Admittedly, many of the underlying systemic issues that contribute to the challenges women face during COVID-19 are difficult to break down. However, there is still much that can be done to alleviate the symptoms of these systems now and after the pandemic, and these actions can help raise awareness and initiate the changes that are increasingly needed. You may just be a leader, but when one leader is connected to another over and over again, the collective results for women – and for businesses and society in general – can be incredible.
Related: 4 Communication Movements That Alleviate Anxiety During Times of Crisis