Been thinking lately about how this pandemic is affecting women. We hear more men are dying from the coronavirus than women. Perhaps there’s something about women’s physical bodies that we don’t understand. Perhaps that’s because research has ignored women. Maybe if we knew more, it might lead to a better understanding that would help us all.
And what is the long term economic impact of the pandemic on women?
I just listened to a NY Times Live Event, “COVID-19 and the Gender Divide” hosted by Francesca Donner, Gender Editor, NY Times. [I didn’t know they had a “gender editor,” did you?] Guests were Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Gender Reporter and Author, and writer of the NYT newsletter “In Her Words” and Nahla Valji, Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, United Nations.
Points from the event to ponder:
Crises amplify economic impact. Factors that create lower economic status for women will in the short term make life more difficult. The economic downturn will disproportionately have a female face because women are the predominate labor force in services. With both men and women working from home, there may be a double burden on women, who traditionally carry the unpaid labor of home and care. As we come out of this crisis, can we rebuild the care economy in a more equitable way? It may happen structurally if men continue to work at home because their jobs allow it and women, who work predominately in the service industry, need to leave home to go to work. Interesting.
Does stimulus aid from the government help women? It could if it were directed to childcare and healthcare. If schools stay closed while businesses open, women may disproportionately stay home while men go back to work, even if both were in the same business, thus possibly causing the move to equal opportunity to regress. If women aren’t at the table where decisions are made, some issues will be ignored and women workers disadvantaged.
Domestic violence and sexual assault. Lockdown measures surely affect women’s ability to get help. The bigger question is why and how domestic violence and sexual assault is perpetuated. It will take a cultural shift to make a difference
Family planning, contraception, and abortion services should be considered essential. In some places, access to birth control and abortion services have been restricted, either by the tremendous needs for medical attention to the pandemic or by political opportunism.
Does the shock of a pandemic open minds to opportunities for change? For better childcare? For protecting black and brown women? For having a living wage for “essential” workers?
Lots to think about.