Gender Inequality

This is a watershed moment for gender equality at work: if companies act now

The pandemic has had a disproportionate hit on gender equality at work

The pandemic has had a disproportionate hit on gender equality at work Image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sue Duke
Head, Global Public Policy and Economic Graph Team, LinkedIn
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Gender Inequality

  • The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 highlights the disproportionate hit the pandemic has had on gender equality at work.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion need to be key pillars of plans for recovery.
  • We need to look beyond formal qualifications and assess, recruit and develop talent based on skills and potential if we’re to achieve a more inclusive workforce and society.

LinkedIn’s latest insights published in the Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report make for difficult reading.

Have you read?

    Not only does the report paint a worrying picture of the state of gender equality at work and the disproportionate hit the pandemic has had on working women, but all the indicators show that we are storing up trouble for ourselves in the future. While we have a long way to go on workplace gender equality, this year’s report shows that we can make progress if we learn the lessons from the pandemic and focus our actions, starting today.

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    Impact of COVID on gender equality at work

    We know that COVID-19 has taken a harder toll on women’s careers. That’s partly due to the occupational segregation of the labour market; women work more in industries that have been hardest hit by restrictions, such as the hospitality and travel sectors.

    But it’s also because we saw a large reversion to traditional gender roles as working-from-home became widespread. The reality is that school and childcare closures saw women take more responsibility for childminding and supervision of remote learning. That stepping up at home often came at the cost of stepping back at work. LinkedIn data shows that female hiring rates fell significantly during the initial stage of the pandemic - one indicator of how women’s careers were held back.

    Have you read?
      Hiring rate for women fell in the pandemic, painting a grim picture for gender equality at work
      Hiring rate for women fell in the pandemic, painting a grim picture for gender equality at work Image: LinkedIn

      Our data also revealed a marked decline in women being hired into leadership roles since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year. This has effectively undone 1-2 years of progress across multiple industries, in sectors like Professional Services, Retail, Education, and Recreation and Travel. It is particularly worrying that senior women have lost their seats at the table, particularly when we know the influence and impact this has on driving long-term progress on gender equality at work.

      Gender equality at work threatened by new roles

      What’s even more concerning from this year’s report is the severe gender gap that we see in roles that are growing the fastest, and how little progress has been made in these roles over the last few years.

      Many emerging jobs are already threatening the gender equality at work
      Many emerging jobs are already threatening the gender equality at work Image: World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021

      For example, the current share of women in Cloud Computing roles is 14.2% - up a scant 0.2 percentage points since 2018 - which is barely a blip in terms of momentum. Not only do we need to ensure gender equality at work in the jobs of tomorrow, but these roles - Cloud Computing, Engineering, Data, AI - are precisely the roles that will play a significant role in shaping all aspects of technology and how it is deployed in the world.

      One of the clear consequences of the pandemic is the rapid acceleration in digitization and the integration of technology into all aspects of our lives. We need women’s voices and perspectives represented at this foundational, formative stage, and playing an equal role in determining what technologies are developed, how they’re deployed and the impact they have.

      Forging a fairer future

      Without intervention today, it is going to be even more difficult to address gender inequality at work as we emerge from the pandemic. Companies and governments must ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion are key pillars of their plans for recovery. This means encouraging a fairer distribution of caregiving responsibilities and addressing the double burden that many working women face; developing programmes to fast-track gender equality at work across leadership roles, and tackling the root causes of the issue by changing the way we source and develop talent in organizations.

      Gender equality at work is much severe in senior management positions
      Gender equality at work is much severe in senior management positions Image: World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021

      We also need to recognize the specific challenges around Gender equality at work in the face of fast-growing, future-facing roles. Core to this is breaking down the barriers to these professions, and that includes making these areas of work more attractive for women. There is also a real opportunity to help women reskill for these roles and pivot into these sectors mid-career.

      Skills-based hiring is going to be crucial in making this happen; we need to look beyond formal qualifications and assess, recruit and develop talent based on skills and potential if we’re to achieve a more inclusive workforce and society.

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      What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

      Learning lessons from the pandemic

      The findings of the Global Gender Gap Report have important lessons for how we rebuild our economies in the wake of the pandemic. While the pandemic has brought immense challenges, it has created huge upheaval and change, and we need to seize this moment. It is within our power to change the numbers for gender equality at work. Let’s make sure that when we review next year’s Global Gender Gap Report, we will be able to point to the actions we took and the difference it made.

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      Related topics:
      Gender InequalityFuture of WorkFuture of Work
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