Gender Equality in the time of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Are you past the initial stages of panic yet? Those first few weeks of seeing the world as you once knew it crumble under an invisible attacker. Of feeling like you’ve lost all the control you thought you had under wraps? Have you come out of the fear of uncertainty to embrace its possibilities? Of beginning to question how the world might look like in the New Normal? 

If so, then some other facets of how the impact of this virus are playing out in our society might have popped into your head, as it has in mine. I specifically started thinking about how this virus is affecting the battle towards achieving Gender Equality.

Just in the last two days I have been researching articles and information that could help me understand the factors involved in this pandemic and how they are affecting women and men differently. 

On one hand, I see some positives. Like the unprecedented amount of time fathers are now spending with their children and wives and at home. This is sparking much reflection around care taking activities. They are seeing firsthand the laborious efforts of their partners, their nannies, the teachers, the nurses, the coaches of after-school sports and activities, and the emotional responsibility that comes with caring for children. Maybe they even noticed that they haven’t often been sharing in these responsibilities in an equitable manner.

This time is shining a bright light on home labor distribution, and I couldn’t be more excited to see partners embracing these conversations. Talk to your partner about how you want to divide up tasks and hold each other accountable. Make sure the planning and emotional responsibility of the activities are agreed on as well! Renegotiate these tasks as needed to make your balance work for the entire family unit!

How awesome would it be if at the end of this period, men and women come out with a more balanced share of home and child raising responsibilities?! How cool if due to the advancement of remote work, we can all have more flexibility to team up to attend plays and dinners and birthdays and after school games, and to just be present with the humans we chose to bring into the world? How amazing if we start to value (increase the salaries) of the teachers who are a large force of educators for these young minds? How incredible would it be if we become more inspired and available to spend time with each other in the New Normal world?

On the other hand, however, there are noted negative repercussions to the battle towards achieving Gender Equality. Many of the jobs being dissolved curing COVID are service industry workers and low-wage or part time workers, which are disproportionally filled by women laborers. Two-thirds of tipped restaurant workers in the U.S. are women, according to analysis by TIME Magazine. Sixty-five percent of workers in the restaurant industry do not have paid sick leave. and 77 percent have unpaid leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, 4 in 10 working mothers take time off and stay home when their children are sick, which is 10 times more than the share of men, according to a study published in 2014. Of these women, 60 percent are not paid for that time off. There are also five times as many single mothers as fathers in the U.S. 

Anita Bhatia, the assistant Secretary General and deputy executive director of the United Nations' women's agency says “The [gender pay] gap could increase this year as women are likely to be disproportionately affected by home responsibilities in quarantine and see their lower-wage jobs disappear.”

These times are stressful to all, but we must not forget to pay attention to Gender Roles and the distribution of responsibilities and of opportunities and resources when we rebuild the New Normal World. 

As said by António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together, to recovering faster, and to building a better future for everyone.”

Some additional resources:

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