Women and COVID-19

by Kully Kaur-Ballagan
State of the Nation

Who has suffered most in 2020? Women have borne more of the psychological brunt of the coronavirus pandemic than anyone else. We found that six in ten (60%) said they are finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day, compared with 43% of men.

The strains are most keenly felt by working mothers – as many as 55% say they are finding it harder to stay positive compared with around a third of working fathers (35%). Women are also more worried than men about the mental and emotional toll the pandemic will have on them over the next 12 months.

Mother working from home with baby

Women are more
likely to say they are
finding it harder to
stay positive day-to-day

At the moment, are you finding each of the following easier, harder,or about the same compared with before the coronavirus outbreak?

% finding it harder to stay positive day-to-day

Source
Ipsos MORI

Base
c. 1,000 British adults online aged 18-75, November 2020

Woman looking through window inside home

But, it’s not just the emotional and mental effects that have hit women harder. The immediate employment impact of the crisis has also been felt more strongly by women; 33% of women in work say their workplaces have been closed, compared with 25% of men. Women are more likely to work in sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as hospitality, retail and travel. This all paints a gloomy picture for women and could set the clock back on progress towards gender equality.

However, there is perhaps some evidence that the pandemic has shifted the dial in a more positive direction for women. As working from home has become the norm for so many (and saw many parents juggling the demands of working and home-schooling), working practices that were once seen as more damaging to women than men may be now be viewed in more gender-neutral ways, while the long-term trend away from the traditional view that childcare makes a man ‘less of a man’ has accelerated further. Behaviours still lag behind perceptions – in principle people may accept a man can share childcare, but in reality, women are still more likely to feel that they are shouldering more of the responsibility.

 

Women are more likely to work in sectors most affected by the pandemic, such as hospitality, retail and travel

Attitudes are increasingly unanimous in support for stay-at-home dads – and this has increased since 2019

A man who stays home to look after his children is less of a man

% agree

Source
Ipsos MORI

Base
2,152 British adults online aged 18-75, 22-24 July 2020

Did you
know?

%

of mothers have taken on more childcare responsibility during lockdown, compared to 23% of fathers

Is this an indication that the pandemic has forced us to reconsider gender roles and provided a catalyst for greater gender equality? Or is this just a temporary shift? Sadly, even when they are working from home, women feel under more pressure than men to prove they really are hard at work and they are more like to feel their work-life balance is deteriorating.1 The full extent of the crisis is still unfolding, yet given the shift in perceptions we have seen, this is an opportunity for progressive businesses and Government to show they really are committed to changing working practices and helping gender equality.

Women are more likely to feel their work-life balance is deteriorating

Kully Kaur-Ballagan

Kully Kaur-Ballagan

Research Director