Research shows Covid-19 has impacted professional women more than men

A study looking at the responsibilities of co-parenting couples during the Covid-19 lockdown has found that women took on more childcare, household and caring duties than men while continuing to work. 

In a survey of more than 1,000 parents working during the UK’s first lockdown and school closures between March and June 2020, researchers found that the unpaid labour at home significantly affected people’s ability to do their job, particularly women. 

Photo by Nelly Antoniadou on Unsplash
Photo by Nelly Antoniadou on Unsplash

They also found that women are more likely to lose or leave their jobs due to the challenges arising from the pandemic. 

Dr Ismini Vasileiou, Associate Professor in Information Systems at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and member of the Women’s Higher Education Network (WHEN) – the organisation which conducted the study – said the pandemic has shone a light on issues that already existed for female professionals. 

“It was interesting to see that the issues we have been trying to address before the pandemic have not changed. The pandemic only grows those issues,” said Dr Vasileiou. 

“Technology has been around for a long time but never used to the full extent. Suddenly we are all able to attend conferences across the globe, something that was seen as lack of opportunity in the past.  

“Nevertheless, those events are still seen as lack of opportunities due to the ongoing childcare responsibilities. Many organisations have not done anything for their employees to feel included and they translate ‘flexible working’ as ‘it’s ok you do not need to attend all meetings’.” 

The survey showed that 75% of women were responsible for coordinating and organising children’s activities, compared to just 18% of men.  

When it came to meal planning and provision, 67% of women took the lead, compared to 29% of men, while cleaning and tidying saw 64% of females taking the responsibility versus 14% of males. 

Dr Vasileiou continued: “The majority of mums who took part in the study said they felt lockdown duties limited their ability to network, attend online events or professional development and this left them feeling disconnected from colleagues and decision making.  

“They also reported a loss of confidence, concerns over their professional reputation and increased stress.” 

Ismini Vasileiou
Dr Isimini Vasileiou

One female participant said she struggled to maintain the same output as the rest of her colleagues who do not have childcare or caring responsibilities, which meant she had lost opportunity to be involved in interesting projects and tasks which could have furthered her career potential. 

Others commented on the impact the pandemic had had on their work/life balance from a personal perspective. One woman said: “I am a more tense, emotional and irritable mother and partner, and a less productive employee. This is a hard thing to accept.” 

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As a result of the survey, WHEN members have produced a detailed report titled ‘Sharing the Caring’, offering solutions to improve the lives of working parents and advance towards a more gender equal world. 

Their recommendations include encouraging people to talk to their line manager or colleagues about their circumstances and to be honest about their availability and capacity; talking to their partner about the division of household, childcare and caring duties and carving out dedicated working time for each person. 

WHEN hosts a network for all women, from all backgrounds, who work in any role in the higher education sector. The WHEN research group was established in February 2020, and this survey was the group’s first project. The group’s intention is to align with WHEN aims of supporting gender parity through targeted research that brings insight and value.  

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Posted on Wednesday 28th October 2020

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