Gender equality needs to be front and centre of any pandemic recovery plan

05/03/2021

Tosin James-Odukoya

Head of Inclusion & Wellbeing

In light of International Women’s Day, Quilter Head of Inclusion & Wellbeing, Tosin James-Odukoya explores the ways in which the government can ensure there is gender equality in the workplace post pandemic.

The crisis caused by Covid has had a devastating impact on gender equality – social, cultural and economic – and women have been more vulnerable to the negative effects. The progress that had been made in gender equality has arguably regressed and so must remain high on the agenda as we emerge from the pandemic.

Financial inequality between the genders in particular has been severely impacted. Figures from a recent McKinsey & Company study found that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs as they make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses. Add on that as schools have closed, childcare and other dependency care disappeared a gap needed to be filled and in the main women have picked up the additional domestic and family work.

Unfortunately, the picture has not even been favourable for the upcoming generations. We know that the economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly challenging for young people and unfortunately younger women were impacted far greater than younger men. Facing these challenges at a young age can severely knock financial confidence and potentially increase financial vulnerability, in hundreds of thousands of women.

The support the government has put in place has been extraordinary and we appreciate not every job can be saved, but as we emerge from this crisis, it should be doing more to get women back into the workforce, particularly in younger cohorts. The Chancellor has announced his plan for jobs, but it is unclear whether gender has been considered as part of this. Any research on the area should be disclosed and if there is none then the government urgently need to consider how their proposals will benefit women. The government also needs to encourage firms to consider what more can be done to ensure the workplace is one in which female talent can thrive. Things such as the gender pay gap reporting regulations have been a good first step, but more now needs to be done to get women into senior level positions and ensure they are better protected when the next crisis comes around.

Increasing financial confidence through education and engagement will go a long way to ensure women participate more in the personal finances of the nation. Data has shown women often make better investment decisions and will make more sensible financial decisions, but they are often held back by a lack of confidence.

As we rebuild, we should have an even greater focus on making policy decisions that are better informed by the challenges and barriers that exist for half the population – we must learn the lessons from this crisis and find a way to build back to a more equal society.