Covid -19 and its effect on women in the workplace

The Covid- 19 pandemic has brought many unprecedented challenges. Within the workplace, one major concern is that women that are working parents are being negatively affected due to the multiple obligations of the ‘new normal’. 

The London School of Economics and Political Science reports that women are facing a disproportionate loss of jobs. Further new research found that 15% of mothers either have been made redundant or expect to be made redundant and of those, nearly half have said that a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy. Nearly three quarters of mothers have had to work fewer hours because of childcare issues, and 65% of mothers who have been furloughed say a lack of childcare was the reason. 

Lack of available childcare, the requirements of remote schooling and for those that are fortunate to have the support, lack of grandparents as a secondary support network have all hugely affected our daily working and parenting lives. And now, with schools on summer holidays there are further costly childcare challenges. All told, it’s a huge juggling act.

These challenges are destined to have a long term effect on women’s careers in finance. As reported generally, the same problems will apply to those in finance, with some female accountants during the pandemic possibly having to give up their job completely. Some are potentially (and unwittingly) further up the queue to redundancy, while many are having to cut down their hours to fulfil their parental obligations. While it’s true that in many cases men are also managing childcare responsibilities – from my own experience as an employer, it is women who share the majority of the load. 

This has led to unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace and finance in general, for women during Covid–19 and as the pandemic looks set to continue, women will potentially lose even more years in their career development. Women, and especially those working in finance, are still yet to be pound for pound to their male counterparts. Now, due to coronavirus, women’s equality is going lower down the agenda, very possibly along with confidence. Covid–19 has taken us back decades.

This situation is the same across the board. Smaller companies and employers can, in many ways, be more flexible with their workforce, but no matter what size of company and type of employer you are, there are only so many hours in the day for your employees to fit in all the daily requirements of work, schooling and childcare.

With many of the national workforce not returning fully to their offices, a re-imagined school day and the dreaded uncertainty of a second wave, it’s likely that work-life situation is here to stay for some time. Some companies are even struggling to reopen as the female workforce is unavailable. 

I have recently started attending the Women and Work APPG sessions online. The APPG is an All-Party Parliamentary group to constructively examine and debate the role that policy makers can play to deliver gender balance within the economy. The forum’s focus for 2020 is women’s wellbeing in the workplace, and it is actively researching and reporting on the effects of Covid -19 on the female workforce, hosting regular virtual meetings and call outs for participant feedback. It is a great resource for the current climate. 

On the positive side, remote working has provided many benefits. Technology has enabled us to work flexibly and collaboratively, and we do have more family time in the home due to less commuting or travel to meetings.  Client growth and employment opportunities have also widened as we are no longer geographically fixed. 

It is my hope that we find a positive balance in the future, where women, particularly in finance, are not penalised as working mothers and I will actively and continually campaign for this to remain top of the agenda.

Nicky Larkin, founder and MD at Goringe Accountants

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