Women's Voice: Discussing the Covid-19 impact on gender equality
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Women’s Voice: Discussing the Covid-19 impact on gender equality

Women’s Voice: Discussing the Covid-19 impact on gender equality

Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted jobs held by women workers

2020 was a year like none other, during which women were often at the forefront for humanity’s response to the pandemic – be it in healthcare, where up to 90 per cent of nurses in the US are women; be it in education – 75 per cent of teachers are women; or be it at home – where women shielded the dual burden of being the at-home teacher and caregiver, while supporting her career aspirations.

In many ways 2020 was also the year women shone – not just at home, but also at work. We had the US elect its first ever women Vice President, we had Citi group select its first female CEO, and even regionally, the UAE’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank appointed a woman CEO. One of the teams that created the Covid-19 vaccine at BioNTech was co-led by a woman.

Even in my sector, startups and fintech – women are gaining ground. According to a Deloitte report, startups founded and co-founded by women raised $5.1bn in funding in 2019 – almost 60 per cent of the total capital raised in 2009 by all companies.

Of that total, $540m was invested in startups founded by women, up from just $85m in 2015.

Meanwhile this year also saw the IPO of Bumble – founded and led by a woman CEO and a platform targeting women customers. This shows that there is increasing interest in backing women entrepreneurs, who can also lead startups to generate strong returns for their founders and investors.

But despite the amazing strides we have made, there is a long climb ahead of us.

Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted jobs held by women workers. In the US, women accounted for almost 80 per cent of adults who stopped working or looking for work in January, according to reports. Meanwhile some 2.5 million women lost their jobs during the pandemic, compared to 1.8 million men.

However, it is not just a US story; even within the region, while data is tough to come by – a high number of job losses have been in the services sector across retail or hospitality. And many of those roles were held by women migrants.

In some ways 2020 has been the best of times and the worst of times for women. We have been at the forefront of dealing with the pandemic, we have seen new glass ceilings being broken – whether in political leadership or business leadership and we have had renewed interest and commitment in backing women-led business. But we have also borne the brunt of the pandemic, be it in job losses, be it in dealing with increased responsibilities at home or be it the rise in domestic violence globally.

It feels like two steps forwards and one step back. But despite all the challenges ahead, to paraphrase the words of American poet laureate Amanda Gorman, there will always be light, if we are brave enough to see it, if we are brave enough to be it.

Padmini Gupta is the co-founder and CEO of rise

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