Seven in 10 women who have experienced negative changes to their routine amid the Covid-19 pandemic believe it will prevent them from progressing in their careers, further erasing gains achieved in workplace gender equality over the years.
According to Deloitte's Understanding the pandemic's impact on working women report, 82 per cent of women reported they were negatively disrupted by the pandemic as their workloads increased over the months.
Sixty-five per cent of women who experienced shifts in their daily routine due to the pandemic said they now have more responsibility for household chores, while a third said their workloads increased.
The survey, which polled nearly 400 working women around the globe, showed that 40 per cent of respondents said the pandemic-induced changes to their lives impacted their physical well-being and they were unable to balance work and life commitments.
“Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to adapt our daily lives," Rana Salhab, people and purpose partner at Deloitte Middle East, said.
"However, women are being impacted in profound ways, facing tremendous challenges and commonly taking on expanded duties at home while continuing to juggle their careers.”
The pandemic has had a "disproportionate" effect on women's employment and could derail the gains achieved so far in empowering them, the International Monetary Fund warned in a blog post earlier this year.
Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable during the Covid-19 crisis than men’s jobs globally, at 5.7 per cent versus 3.1 per cent respectively, according to McKinsey. While women make up 39 per cent of global employment, they also account for 54 per cent of overall job losses amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Women performed three-quarters of unpaid care work – 3.2 times more than men – even before Covid-19 began. Following the outbreak, the Deloitte survey noted that women who shoulder 75 per cent or more of caregiving responsibilities almost tripled to 48 per cent, up from 17 per cent during the pre-pandemic period.
The majority of women with children reported shouldering more childcare responsibilities, with 53 per cent saying that home-schooling or education responsibilities fell to them.
Meanwhile, nearly a third of working women without caregiving responsibilities said they feel they always need to be available at work and are concerned their career progression will be affected if they are not able to fulfill this need.
Twenty-three per cent of respondents said they feel a need to always be “on” for work in fear they will end up having to choose between their personal responsibilities and careers, and 10 per cent said they may need to consider a career break or leave the workforce entirely.
Such challenges are demotivating working women, with 60 per cent even questioning whether they want to progress in their careers considering the efforts required to meet the extra workloads, the survey found.
The Deloitte survey recommended that companies provide more flexible working arrangements, mentoring opportunities and address unconscious bias when promoting employees to support the female workforce.
“As organisations adapt to support women through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, our research demonstrates there’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” Ms Salhab said. “This next year will prove critical in our efforts to achieve gender diversity in the workplace. Businesses must prioritise flexibility, equity and inclusion to support women in achieving their career ambitions.”