As the world celebrates International Women’s Day as part of a global pandemic, one thing is clear: the Covid-19 crisis has the face of a woman.
The pandemic exacerbates already profound inequalities among women and girls and erases years of progress towards gender equality.
Women are more likely to work in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. The majority of the key service workers at the forefront of fighting the pandemic are women – many of them come from racially and ethnically marginalized groups and have low incomes.
Women are 24% more susceptible to job loss and experience greater falls in income. The already high wage gap between men and women has widened, including in the health sector.
The supply of unnumbered care facilities has increased dramatically due to containment measures and the closure of schools and day-care centers. Millions of girls may never go to school again. Mothers – especially single mothers – face severe adversity and high levels of anxiety.
The pandemic also sparked a parallel global epidemic of violence against women worldwide, with a significant increase in cases of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and child marriage.
Although women make up the majority of health professionals, a recent study found that only 3.5% of work teams had the same number of men and women when fighting Covid-19. In global coverage of news related to the pandemic, only one in five specialists was a woman.
All of this exclusion is an emergency in and of itself. The world needs a new incentive to promote female leadership and equal participation. It is clear that such initiatives will benefit everyone.
When women lead governments, we generally see greater investment in social protection. When women are in parliament, countries adopt more effective measures to combat climate change. When women negotiate peace, agreements are more permanent
The response to covid-19 highlighted the power and effectiveness of female leadership. Over the past year, countries with female executives have had lower transmission rates and are, for the most part, better positioned to recover from this pandemic. Women’s organizations have filled critical gaps in the delivery of essential services and information, especially at the community level.
In general, when women lead government, we see greater investment in social protection and greater progress in fighting poverty. When women are in parliament, countries adopt more effective measures to combat climate change. When women negotiate peace, agreements are more permanent.
However, women represent only a quarter of national lawmakers worldwide, a third of mayors and only a fifth of ministers. At this rate, gender equality in national political systems will not be achieved until 2063. Parity between heads of state will last more than a century.
The pandemic recovery process is our opportunity to embark on a new, more egalitarian path. The recovery aid should be aimed in particular at girls and women
A better future depends on eliminating this imbalance of power. Women have the same right to express themselves with authority over decisions that affect their lives. I am proud to have achieved gender equality in leadership positions at the United Nations.
The pandemic recovery process is our opportunity to embark on a new, more egalitarian path. Recovery assistance should be targeted specifically at girls and women, including through investments in infrastructure related to the provision of care. The formal economy only works because it is subsidized by unpaid female workers.
If we recover from this crisis, we must find a path to an inclusive, green and resilient future. In this context, I appeal to all managers to work in six structural areas:
First, to ensure equal representation – from company boards to parliaments, from higher education to public institutions – through quotas and other special measures.
Second, that they are investing heavily in the economics of care and social protection and redefining gross domestic product to include housework, making it more visible and accountable.
Thirdly, obstacles to the full inclusion of women in the economy are to be removed through access to the labor market, property rights and the creation of targeted credit and investment.
Fourth, the repeal of discriminatory laws in all areas – from labor and property rights to personal status and protection against violence.
Fifth, every country must adopt a contingency plan to tackle violence against women and girls, followed by funding, legislation and political will to end this scourge.
Sixth, I call for a change in mentality, an increase in public awareness and an end to systemic gender bias.
The world has the opportunity to leave behind generations of deeply ingrained and systemic discrimination. It’s time to build an egalitarian future.
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention