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It’s time to call out the impact of COVID-19 on women

26th June 2020

By Sandra Hills OAM, CEO Benetas

Health crises tend to magnify existing inequalities and within only a few months, COVID-19 has triggered unprecedented change to societies on a global scale. The impacts of COVID-19 are not gender-neutral. We may be weathering the same storm, but we are in very different boats.

Women on the frontline of the public health crisis such as nurses, teachers, early childcare educators, and aged-care workers make up 70% of all health and social-services staff globally.

In addition, women earn just 79 cents for every dollar men make, as calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A survey of women around the world by Oxfam Australia, has found the levels of stress and anxiety has significantly increased due to the extra work women are having to shoulder as a result of COVID-19. Women are feeling depressed, isolated, overworked and even ill due to increased unpaid care work.

They are bearing the brunt of extra childcare, home schooling, and housework, and are losing jobs in greater numbers than men. Superannuation fund HESTA recently released a statement stating of the 91,000 HESTA members who had withdrawn super under the government’s early release, 71,500, or 78.5 per cent, were women.

A large majority of working mums have found it challenging juggling their paid work with unpaid responsibilities during lockdown and many have been forced to take leave or resign due to a lack of flexibility from their employers.

More than half of working mums believe increased childcare responsibilities during COVID-19 has negatively affected their career prospects.

In addition, they are facing an even greater risk of gender-based violence. Evidence shows that during any major crisis or disaster, violence against women is likely to increase and within Australia, there has been a 10% increase in demand for urgent assistance since lockdown began in March. 1800RESPECT is the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service and is a great resource for:

  • People experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence
  • Their friends and family
  • Workers and professionals supporting someone experiencing, or at risk of experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence

Benetas takes these issues extremely seriously and I am proud to lead an organisation that has attained WGEA’s Employer of Choice for Gender Equality citation 14 years in a row. In addition to this, to further strengthen our commitments made via our White Ribbon workplace accreditation, we also have paid and unpaid entitlements in place for employees facing domestic and family violence.

I can only hope that as we navigate through this terrible pandemic, we take heed of the imbalances we are seeing and work harder to put measures in place to protect women in all aspects of their lives.