It’s International Women’s Day today and nearly a year since the world change in a way we all could never have expected. I have written before about how the government have failed women during this pandemic. Today, when there is a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel and children across England are returning to school; I am thinking about what women need in order to flourish as we start to hopefully say goodbye to a year of endless lockdowns and restrictions.
Firstly let’s look at what women have faced during this pandemic:
- Parents have been twice as likely to be furloughed
- Women have carried out two-thirds of the childcare while schools have been closed
- This increases to 78% for women with children aged 0-5 years old
- One-third of mothers have lost hours or work due to lack of childcare
- This rose to 44% for BAME mothers
- Many women have been forced to give birth alone with fathers excluded from childbirth
- Postnatal depression has tripled
- There has been 7% increase in reported domestic abuse
- The progress of the gender pay gap has slowed and is not expected to be closed now until 2052
The figures are pretty staggering and we need to do more. It has highlighted that gender inequality is still strong. But also gender bias, with women expected to pick up most of the childcare is still deeply routed in society. What do we need to do to tackle this?
This is my wish list of government initiatives and policy that I would like to see happen:
- Flexible working to be the default, not the exception
- Greater protection against job loss and redundancy because of parental responsibilities
- The right to work from home if you can do so
- Shared parental leave to be encouraged and promoted within business, to remove the stigma of men taking time off for their families
- Increase paternity leave
- More work in government, schools, hospitals and society on gender bias
- Free period products available in the same way contraception is in order to eradicate period poverty
- All companies to publish salaries by gender to bring accountability for the gender pay gap to tackle disparity
- Greater mental health funding around the impact of motherhood, childbirth trauma and postnatal depression
- A public review into domestic abuse, rape laws and defence and prosecution practises
- Greater support for BAME women, including positive discrimination to encourage social mobility
- These policies to apply to all women regardless of biological sex at birth
- Pockets in all women’s clothing!
This is my absolute golden wishlist and I am sure there is something that I have missed here too. To me, 2020 was a clear step backwards in terms of women’s equality and it’s just not good enough. Many women are exhausted, frustrated and have used up all of the energy surviving the juggle of childcare the pandemic brought with it. Let’s rise from this pandemic and make sure we learn the lessons from it and rebalance the world for the better.