• Zoe Whitman

Giving men more flexibility under lockdown would help reduce gender inequality

COVID-19 has emphasised the inequality for families across the planet. A report from the UN last month highlighted how the crisis is exacerbating gender inequality and I read with interest as I’m seeing just this in the business groups in which I network.

My experience is that freelance mums are taking on the majority of the childcare right now. It's been a challenging and busy time for me, I created a flexible job exactly so that I could work around my family - I simply didn't expect to ever have my family at home with me full time. As women are already more likely to be the lower earners in the family, the part time workers and the freelancers, they're naturally the ones who will take on the majority of the childcare under lock down - particularly if their partners are working full time.

Women are already at a disadvantage because they often"lean out" ahead of starting families. They don't always take opportunities they might otherwise because they anticipate a life change ahead. They then lose out on the experience their male co-workers have simply from being in the workforce for an extra year due to maternity leave. Compound that by two or three children and you have a significant experience gap which explains why women often take longer to achieve the same as men in their careers.

The time women will be taking out to look after their children during the pandemic, whether they're freelancing or working for an employer will exaggerate that inequality even further. Women make huge professional sacrifices for their families every day, is it time that it became more of a norm for men to have flexibility around their children?

© 2020 Zoe Whitman

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