There’s little doubt that COVID-19 is negatively affecting workplaces across the country. After all, today’s workers have been forced to adjust to everything from non-traditional working environments to reduced hours and even layoffs or terminations.
Unfortunately, recent studies show that women have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19 in comparison to their male counterparts. While the causes and implications of the negative impact of COVID-19 are quite complex, here's a closer look at the major challenges women face in their workplaces. We take a deep dive into the long-term effects that COVID-19 could have on your organization and explore steps you can take to prepare for a post-pandemic workforce.
impact of COVID-19 on women in the workplace versus men
COVID-19 has impacted nearly every worker in Canada, despite their gender or race. However, numerous studies show that the impact that COVID-19 is having on women is much more substantial in several areas, including:
• millions of lost jobs
According to Statistics Canada, 1.5 million women in Canada lost their jobs during just the first two months of the pandemic. In turn, has led to unemployment rates as high as 20% among women compared to 13% among their male counterparts. These statistics should come as no surprise since women outnumber men in many highly affected industries, including retail, leisure,hospitality and food service.
Additionally, less than 35% of management positions are held by women. These top-level employees are typically the last to face layoffs and terminations. Low-level management positions are much less safe, and women are much more likely to hold these roles. During the pandemic many of these mid to low-level management roles were cut as companies looked for ways to cut costs. Furthermore, women are twice as likely as men to hold part-time positions, which were often the first jobs to face the chopping block when the pandemic hit.
• stress on essential front-line workers
Many women who were able to hold onto their jobs during the pandemic faced the added pressure of being essential front-line workers. This is particularly true for those working in the healthcare, social work and educational industries, which offer a variety of jobs that are predominantly held by women. For example, over 82% of social service jobs are held by women and more than 92% of the nurses in Canada are women.
The combined stress of contracting COVID-19 in their workplace and bringing it home to family members has become a high stressor for women working in these positions. According to recent polls, 49% of women (from all industries) are worried about a COVID-19 outbreak compared to just 33% of men.
• maintaining a work-life balance
Even women who have been able to work from home face the increased burden of trying to strike the right balance between their home and work lives. First, studies show that women take on more than twice as much household and child-rearing chores as their partners. Under normal circumstances, this fact alone puts more pressure on working women. When adding COVID-19 related issues and stay-at-home orders to the mix, women are under intense stress to keep their home and work life in balance.
Early in the pandemic, many women faced the daunting task of homeschooling their children while also keeping up with work expectations. Even now with most children back in school, unexpected closures and hybrid learning can force women to rework their work-life schedule with little to no notice.
This excess stress can lead to poor job performance, time-management issues and the inability to focus, all of which puts women’s jobs at risk.
• job security concerns
Being able to hold onto their job during the first and second waves of COVID-19 has not helped women feel more secure about the future of their careers. Studies show that 66% of women aged 18 to 44 are concerned about the future of their job. Furthermore, the added stress of COVID-19 has left 33% of women in the workforce considering leaving their current job, in comparison to 19% of men.
long-term effects of COVID-19
At this early stage, it’s impossible to fully realize the effects that COVID-19 will have on women in the workplace. One thing is certain, however: there will be fewer women in the workforce for several years to come. This reduction in gender diversity at organizations across the country will no doubt stunt business growth, innovation and productivity.
If leaders are not careful and don’t take proactive steps to prevent this lack of diversity, the impact will directly affect business outcomes. For example, lack of diversity in the workplace can hinder creativity and innovation, decrease employee engagement, and reduce staff retention, even among their male counterparts.
preparing for a post-pandemic workforce
The good news is that despite the impact that COVID-19 has had in the workplace, 73% of women aged 18 to 24 are satisfied with their job. Although men score substantially higher at 83%, it's still a good sign that a majority of women are happy at work.
There is hope that actionable steps will be effective to prevent the loss of gender diversity. There are several things that you can do right now to ensure women retain an active role in your organization.
Now is the time to analyze your current workforce and set diversity goals. This understanding will help your organization make informed hiring and terminating decisions. When possible, offer your employees flexible hours. Not only will this step allow women within your workforce to maintain a healthy work-life balance, but it will contribute to an increase in productivity and job satisfaction. You should also consider the long-term implication of layoffs and terminations and find alternative solutions, such as part-time hours versus layoffs.