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  • Katica Roy

Why COVID-19 Is Accelerating the Future of Gender Equity

Updated: Dec 14, 2020


Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.

The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.

• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.

Be Brave™


Why COVID-19 Is Accelerating Our Journey to Gender Equity


How will COVID-19 change the future of gender equity?


We can look at this question in two ways. We can examine gender equity as a broad category or we can chunk off specific issues related to it. Viewing gender equity more generally, I’m optimistic that COVID-19 will, in the long-term, accelerate our journey to gender equity.

At the dawn of the new decade, before social distancing, quarantine, and COVID-19 entered the airwaves, the US was an estimated 208 years away from reaching gender equity. We were not on pace to reach gender equity in this lifetime.

In light of COVID-19, we are starting to see several micro-trends take root in our fight to contain the pandemic, and these micro-trends could streamline our efforts to close the gender equity gap.

Once the dust settles, we might find that we are closer to gender equity than the 208-year prediction. We might find that we can, indeed, reach gender equity in this lifetime.

Now to those micro-trends that I’m talking about. They fall under the following three gender equity “umbrellas.”

1. Gender equity on the homefront

2. Gender equity in the workplace

3. Gender equity in politics

Let’s examine how the virus impacts each of these umbrella categories to better understand the situation.

1. Gender equity on the homefront

>> Stay-at-home-dads become the norm.

Nearly 95% of the US population is under a stay-at-home order and at least 22 million people are newly unemployed. That means many fathers around the country, working or not, are suddenly at home. Alongside many of these fathers are their school-age children who are also suddenly stuck at home. We can expect to see fathers’ participation in childcare tick up. For the 48% of dads who aspire to stay at home with their children, this uptick is a good thing. COVID-19 could normalize being a stay-at-home-dad.

>> Domestic work becomes more equitable.

Every day, the average woman in the US spends four hours and one minute on unpaid labor. The average US man spends two hours and 25 minutes per day on unpaid labor. In the short-term, women will (continue to) bear the brunt of unpaid labor. But in the long-term, as men spend more time at home and the burden of the “second shift” is exposed, we could see a more equitable distribution of domestic work.

2. Gender equity in the workplace

>> Gender equity improves companies’ survival and recovery.

The virus has ignited a “people-first, culture-first” approach to talent management strategies. Business leaders are recognizing the need to prioritize not only the physical safety of their employees, but also their psychological safety. Workers need to know that they are valued equitably. They need to know that their voices are heard. That they are respected.

Layer on the fact that women are the most educated cohort in the US labor market, and now we can begin to see the business case for gender equity materialize. In 2019, for the first time on record, there were more women than men in the labor force with bachelor’s degrees or higher (29.5 versus 29.3 million respectively). Female talent will fuel our economic recovery, and companies will need to prioritize gender equity to survive and thrive post-COVID-19.

And remember, prioritizing gender equity in the workplace goes beyond establishing flexible WFH policies. Employees need opportunity equity, pay equity, paid caregiver leave, etc.

>> Coordinated efforts to achieve gender equity emerge.

On April 5, 2020, the B20 (they are the official voice of the private sector to the G20) recognized the danger of creating gender-blind responses to COVID-19. According to the B20, gender-blind responses will only exacerbate the inequities in our system. They’re right, and so to prevent current inequities from deepening further, the B20 called on public and private organizations to establish coordinated gender-sensitive approaches to the pandemic. Companies and societies will start coming together to strategically bake gender equity into their operations and cultures.

3. Gender equity in politics

>> Elected officials adopt gender-budgeting.

COVID-19 is illuminating the cracks in our system. We’ve already seen how women are on pace to suffer the most from a coronavirus-induced recession. They represent 62% of low-wage and minimum-wage workers, are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men, and earn $10,122 less per year due to the gender pay gap. To create effective and sustainable fiscal policy, our elected representatives will need to acknowledge these discrepancies by practicing gender budgeting. Pre-COVID-19, government budgets were largely gender-blind. Post-COVID-19, public leaders will realize that men and women have unique needs, perspectives, and lived-experiences that must be reflected in fiscal policy.

For these reasons, I believe the fundamental shifts that our society and economy are undergoing will bend the arc of history toward inclusion.


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