Coming out of COVID: Women’s job prospects under threat

It may seem too early to be talking of a future beyond COVID-19, but vaccine news over the past couple of weeks and the arrival of the first consignment from Pfizer Biontech in the UK is cause for real optimism.  And the big day arrived yesterday with the first vaccinations in the UK, 90 year-old Margaret Keenan receiving the first historic jab closely followed by… William Shakespeare!

Well with that good news, 2021 is almost upon us and, as we wave a cheery farewell to the year of the pandemic, it’s time to look forward.

There is much to be optimistic about but, sadly, not for everyone. In many industries the workplace will have changed and the numbers of people at work decreased, as some employees furloughed during the trading restrictions may find they don’t have a job to return to. And it will be women who might well bare the brunt of the pain, according to a leading charity.

A recent report by the Fawcett Society suggests that workplace equality is suffering a serious impact from COVID-19, with a risk of women falling further behind in their treatment by employers. The Fawcett report reveals that 43 per cent of working women are worried about their job or promotion prospects, while 35 per cent of working mothers had lost work or seen their hours reduced due to childcare responsibilities.

Further investment in childcare, more rights for flexible working and improved paid leave for fathers are all government interventions which could help, but if nothing is done the pandemic could easily perpetuate inequality and halt the progress which has been made so far.

And employers can support the drive for equality by shifting an organisation’s culture, away from an expected number and structure of hours, towards outcome-based measurements. If the work gets done to a high standard and on time, why does it matter whether the graft starts at 8am and finishes at 5pm…or is done in chunks of hours when family responsibilities allow?

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is that employers need to trust their people to work at home, when they can, and the outcome will be just fine…and quite possibly better.

Women’s Football could be set back a decade

The potential damage caused, by the pandemic, to football in the lower tiers has generated a few miles of column inches this year, and even some Premier League clubs have been trying to cut their cloth a little more carefully.

But the fall-out from this, and the ongoing impact of COVID-19, could set back the women’s game by ten years, according to leaders in the game. Mark Gannon, chief executive of UK Coaching says there is a serious risk that the number of coaches in the women’s game could dwindle as clubs struggle to recover from lockdown.

“We had such momentum leading into the pandemic,” says Gannon, “and I’m not sure we had enough coaches and volunteers in the first place. We won’t know what the impact is until people start coming back, but clearly there are a lot of things going on in people’s lives.”