Culture3 min read

This Got Us Thinking: what does Covid-19 mean for gender equality?

As the UK hustled into lockdown in mid March, we all knew things would change, be put on hold or cancelled altogether. Later that month, the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced that gender pay gap reporting would be suspended for 2020.

This got us thinking.

Gender equality may not be at the top of the agenda for many governments right now, but how long can we expect this vital discussion to stay off the table? Teams make better decisions when there is gender diversity, as well cognitive and ethnic diversity. Having a spotlight on gender diversity is important too, but in the UK we still have a serious gender pay gap to tackle.

One study found that companies with the most gender-diverse executive teams were 25% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. We owe it to ourselves, our businesses and society to keep equal rights a priority.

The pandemic has been described as “disastrous” for women’s economic progress. Have women been affected by the pandemic more than men? Will Covid-19 rewind the progress we’ve made for women’s rights? Is it inevitable that gender equality will take a step back as we focus on beating the virus, or is there more we can do to hold people and organizations accountable for the equal treatment of women?

Gender equality art by @libbyvanderploeg.

💷 The gender pay gap on the frontline

Those working in healthcare have been on the frontline when it comes to fighting Covid. And a higher proportion of those facing this challenge are women. According to the Royal College of Nursing, 9 in 10 nurses in the UK are women. About 9% of nurses in the U.S identify as male.

According to the Gender Pay Gap in Medicine Review published in the UK last year, women outnumber men in the lower-paid specialities like public health and occupational health but are underrepresented in the highest paying specialities. The report also found that men earn £1.17 for every £1 earned by women, and that the overall gender pay gap in the NHS stands at 23%.

Why not spend 30 minutes this week reading up on the gender pay gap in the medical industry? Here’s an article from Forbes to get you started.

Speak up gender equality by @unwomen.

🚺 Covid-19 could reverse gender equality

In April the U.N. released a report detailing the impact of Covid on women, stating that the pandemic has the potential to reverse the gains we have made in women’s rights and gender equality. Girls taken out of school due to the virus may never return.

“Evidence from past epidemics shows that adolescent girls are at particular risk of drop out and not returning to school even after the crisis is over.”Policy Brief: the Impact of Covid-19 on Women

Globally, around 60% of women work in the informal economy. These women earn less and find it harder to save, meaning they have a higher risk of falling into poverty during this crisis.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the U.N tweeted that “Women’s leadership and contributions must be at the heart of coronavirus resilience and recovery efforts.” How do we advocate for gender equality through our organizations and systems during this time?

Watch this short video or, if you have time, take a look at the report.

👶 Working from home, who picks up the slack?

Even before the pandemic women did more housework than men. Now that so many of us are working from home, who picks up the slack when it comes to household chores, home schooling, childcare or looking after elderly relatives? The Boston Consulting Group found that in the U.S. and Europe working women spend 15 hours a week more on unpaid domestic labour than men.

Combining childcare and working from home isn’t easy. One way we can all help working parents is to be understanding, especially when little ones interrupt video calls at the most inopportune moments! Be supportive and ask if they need to take a break to get their children settled.

New York Times baby by @thokamaer.

✅ A challenge for your week ahead

Don’t let equality become buried in a time of crisis. Keep it front of mind by talking about it. Have a look at the data. What is the gender pay gap in your industry? If you’re based in the UK, you can search company gender pay gap reports here. Why not ask your manager about the gender pay gap in your company? You could ask if men and women have equal access to bonuses, pensions, or if an equal pay audit has been implemented.


This Got Us Thinking is a weekly blog that brings you easy-going nudges to think differently, do differently and experiment with how to be more inclusive. Each week, we dip into the unanswerable, nuanced and gray areas of inclusion and offer, not answers, but inklings. You can request a topic to be covered by the This Got Us Thinking series by reaching out to us here.

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