The world has gone through an unprecedented crisis last year. Despite the progress in women’s issues in recent decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated existing disparities, causing a reversion to traditional gender roles and with possible long-lasting physical, psychological, social, and economic effects.
An Oxfam India report — “The Inequality Virus” draws upon reports and data to point that women who were employed before the lockdown are also 23.5 percentage points less likely to be re-employed compared to men in the post-lockdown phase. In a section on “Women bear the Brunt”, it is pointed that 17 million women lost their jobs in April 2020. This increase in the unemployment of women can result in a loss to India’s GDP of about 8% or $218 billion.
Furthermore, women were earning less for similar jobs, saving less, and more likely to provide unpaid care work compared with men; they were thus more likely to give up their jobs to fulfill household duties. For instance, a woman’s financial independence may be hindered by unequally distributed domestic burdens and low decision-making power at home.
The lack of women in leadership positions can result in policies that perpetuate existing gender norms and inequities across the entire nation. For women who have retained their jobs, additional stress is to be expected as they attempt to balance work and household, potentially resulting in decreased work productivity. The various economic, social, and physical stressors that women face during the pandemic are undoubtedly having an adverse impact on mental health as well.
Recently, a leading publishing house had an all-male jury for CEO Business awards and it is no surprise that the awardees reflected similar demographics to the jury. Never has been a greater need to raise our hand high and commit to #choosetochallenge and call out any kind of bias or inequality.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.