Has the pandemic halted our progress on equality?
Is COVID-19 reversing women’s career progression?
How do we assess and address the impact of COVID-19 on diversity and inclusion?
COVID-19 was initially thought to target its victims almost indiscriminately. However as Ann Cairns highlights ‘when crisis strikes, it amplifies the disparities that always existed’. It certainly seems that men and women are feeling the effects of coronavirus differently. This heart-breaking reality was described by Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres: ‘early signs are that the COVID-19 virus poses a greater direct health risk to men…But the pandemic is exposing and exploiting inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. In the long term, its impact on women’s health, rights and freedoms could harm us all’.
Lockdown is already affecting women disproportionately:
- Reports of domestic violence are increasing with the UK National Domestic Abuse helpline reporting a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since lockdown began, and the United Nations predicts 15 million cases of intimate partner violence if lockdowns last three months. And sadly, the majority of domestic violence victims are women
- Part-time, flexible and high-risk occupations are more significantly impacted (key workers, care workers, working mothers). 98% of the lowest paid high risk roles are staffed by women (Think-tank ‘Autonomy’) and according to the World Health Organisation women make up 70% of all health and social care workers globally: with all sectors reporting a gender pay gap. Like men, women are putting their own and their family’s health at risk to keep the country running, yet they aren’t being granted equal pay or treatment for doing so
- Loss of domestic support and childcare reduces earning capacity for women more than men – and this is having both a mental health and a career-based impact for working women (Office for National Statistics)
COVID-19 is so much more than a health crisis – it is a human, economic and social crisis.
At Wharton we are passionate about equality and want to keep these issues at the forefront of organisational focus. So we are delighted to be partnering with two leading diversity and inclusion (D&I) experts: ‘All of Us’ and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox at 20-first. We don’t want to see D&I initiatives take a backseat in the current climate; it’s more important than ever to focus on building a speak-up culture, where diversity, inclusion and mental health are valued. It is critical that leaders speak openly with their employees about the equality challenges COVID-19 brings and identify ways to accelerate progress.
Our new partnerships bring exceptional offerings to facilitate this conversation:
‘All Of Us’ is a unique collaboration platform that visibly promotes diversity and inclusion in a virtual world publishing regular content around the theme of mental health and well-being, positive tips for working from home, as well as the other types of inspirational ‘people’ information, reflecting what we know matters to people right now. To find out more take a look at this short video.
20-first led by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is a global consulting firm focused on empowering leaders to achieve gender balance. 20-first supports companies in adapting to global trends in gender, nationality, and generational issues and helps leaders become effective at shifting the balance. Avivah was recently celebrated by PWN Global with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Gender Balanced Leadership and is currently offering free coaching as part of a new initiate ‘The Coaches’ Web’ to support individuals through COVID-19.
Please contact us for more information and introductions.