This op-ed was originally published on June 28, 2020 in The Toronto Star.
It has become apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately and negatively impacts women. Among workers in the core working age demographic of 25 to 54 years, women represented 70 per cent of all job losses in March in Canada.
Most schools and childcare facilities remain closed, placing an even greater burden on working mothers. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, a greater proportion of the job losses experienced are being recovered among men compared with women.
What needs to change to help women in the workforce?
This is not the great recession, it’s the great reset. It’s an opportunity to do business differently and value women’s contributions, focusing on these three areas:
- Accommodate women in the workforce
COVID-19 has forced flexible work arrangements into the spotlight. Author Sylvia Ann Hewlett has written about the need for flexible work schedules, flexible career paths and removing the stigma of flexible work arrangements as strategies for retaining and advancing women in the workforce.
Now would be the time to advance these objectives and nurture women’s ambitions.
We must also reduce the gender pay and wealth gap and give women the opportunity to earn their full value.
- Promote women in leadership
Women are celebrated at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19 as leaders of nations and as public health officials.
They are leading with facts and empathy. This combination is needed for decisiveness because it’s not one or the other that is the foundation for good decision-making, but analysis and emotion working together.
Unusual allies have emerged. Tom Peters, business management leader and author, wished for a future with more women in leadership. On Twitter, he mused about his “top 2 post-coronavirus dreams: (1) Never again a promotion of anyone to management who does not have a truckload of empathy (high EQ) [and] a demonstrated “people first” track record. (2) More more more women in senior leadership roles ASAP.”
- Give women access to capital
Women are at risk of facing even greater barriers raising capital for their ventures or funds. Investors may focus their efforts and capital on entrepreneurs and fund managers with longer track records and with whom they have established relationships.
At the Equality Fund, we see an opportunity for investors to double down on gender-lens investing and take informed risks on female entrepreneurs and fund managers. It’s this forward-thinking lens, rather than hanging onto old ways of the past that are clearly broken, that will be rewarded in the future.
The traditional approach to business, entrepreneurship and innovation has cracked under pressure and left many people behind. It is my hope that we’ll see the emergence of new ways of doing business that ensure everyone along the whole spectrum of entrepreneurship can access the capital they need to survive and thrive.
Let’s embrace the great reset and make businesses work for women.