As we celebrate International Women’s Day, schools in the UK re-open, and for parents and carers across the country, there is hope of being able to return to a new work-life normal.
Over the last year, COVID-19 has highlighted many inequalities: for young people, ethnic minorities, key workers and older people, and for women in particular. PwC’s recent Women in Work Index 2021 highlighted the risk of the pandemic reversing the gains in women’s economic empowerment of the last decade.
My own research for Insuring Women’s Futures – a market-led programme bringing together policy, business, financial services and third sector experts – analyses gender differences in working, family and healthy lives to understand the root causes of, and propose solutions to close, women’s financial resilience gap.
Drivers of the gender pay and earnings gap pre, and post, pandemic
Pre-pandemic, women’s lifetime earnings were just 59% of men’s – a result of women’s lower participation, pay and progression in the workplace due to qualification gaps, predominance in low paid and insecure work, workplace culture and practices, as well as a family caring and relationship circumstances.
Analysis by various organisations of ONS data highlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on young women’s jobs in shut-down sectors, and that mothers are more likely to have been furloughed or reduced hours, lost their job or quit due to greater caring responsibilities. Rising domestic abuse is impacting female survivors’ ability to work, and older women are more likely than older men to have lost their job.
At the same time, many women – especially low-paid, part-time mothers and older workers – are less digitally skilled and more likely to struggle to get back into work and restart careers.
Pay gap reporting
The pandemic coincided with the 2019 corporate gender pay reporting deadline (which was relaxed by the government) and the ASHE pay and earnings survey. Half of firms