Gender equality in a post-COVID world

International Women’s Day 2021 is all about #ChoosetoChallenge, focusing on the idea that a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have had to deal with an onslaught of challenges and adapt in real time.

Company culture, employer brand and new ‘hybrid’ ways of working will be key focus areas for many businesses coming out of the pandemic. Ensuring gender equality in the workforce has been a challenge for years but may prove even more challenging in a post-COVID world.

Why 25% of working mothers are now sacrificing their careers
Several studies highlight that the pandemic has negatively impacted women’s careers more than men’s. Mothers in full-time employment are often said to be working a ‘double shift’. Decades of research highlight that women do significantly more housework and childcare than men, but the pandemic has magnified these responsibilities. In August 2020, McKinsey found that mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an additional three or more hours per day on housework and childcare. Consequently, one in four working mothers are now considering what would have been unthinkable just a year prior – downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely!

How to progress gender equality in the workplace
According to the World Economic Forum, boosting gender equality in the workplace could help companies recover from the pandemic. For organisations, this can be achieved via existing female employees or through recruitment.

For existing female employees, organisations really have to listen, understand and prioritise key issues in order to take steps towards building a more empathetic working culture. A new report by Claromentis, intranet and digital workplace vendor, shows that women are more likely to spend more time working from home and using a hybrid arrangement. Therefore, when planning a back-to-office strategy, it’s important to consider the indirect impacts that less face-time in the office could have. Will we see a gender skew in decision making? In promotions? Will office environments hark back to ‘Mad Men’ days?

While gender parity will not be achieved by just hiring more women, it’s a start. A case study from the World Economic Forum conducted with Zurich found that by advertising all its vacancies with flexible working options, nearly 20% more women applied for management roles. The number of women hired for senior positions also rose by 33% as a direct result of the initiative. Additionally, Glassdoor found that 61% of women look at how diverse the leadership is when deciding where to work.

Recovering from the pandemic and getting back to ‘normal’ is going to be a long journey for many companies. What’s important is being alert to the challenges on the horizon and carefully considering the long-term implications for a diverse and gender-balanced workforce. McKinsey sums this up nicely stating: “In a year marked by crisis and uncertainty, the choices companies make today will have consequences on gender equality for decades to come.”

How we help
Our teams across Brand & Culture, Investor Engagement & ESG Disclosure and Sustainability & Impact can help you think through your communications and engagement strategies for gender equality. For example:

  • Engaging your staff to support and promote women and other underrepresented groups
  • Thinking through the gender-specific challenges of a post-COVID workplace return
  • Disclosure of gender diversity and pay gap metrics

If you would like to discuss how Luminous can help you on these or related issues, please get in touch.