Gender Inequalities and COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many individuals’ lives, creating a new normal and making many old activities difficult to do such as going to work, going out to see friends and family, restaurants, etc. Additionally, the pandemic has caused greater inequalities among the rich and poor, as well as greater separation between the equality of men and women. The pandemic is heightening all existing inequalities. Some will argue that we can’t focus on gender equality now. Others will say it can wait till after the pandemic, but that is not possible to see them as separate. Instead, the pandemic is accelerating all inequalities.
Gender role beliefs and expectations.
One explanation for why gender inequalities emerge and worsen during crises is long-standing gender role beliefs. Despite the role of women changing over the years, gender expectations remain the same. Women are still expected to perform most of the domestic care work. Women, especially those in relationships with men, may be expected to reduce their work time to take over caregiver duties during the pandemic, creating a greater strain and expectations put on women as well as reduced external support.
Why gender equality matters?
Closing the gender gap will have a huge impact on the economy. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 shows reducing gender inequalities boosts an economy’s growth, competitiveness, and readiness for the future.
Women & Covid-19 in the economy.
More women than men have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, with women’s jobs being at a 19% greater risk than men’s. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, it has been estimated that women makeup almost two-fifths of the global labour force, but have suffered more than half of the total job losses due to the pandemic.
Women and girls (since children are not at school) have to do most tasks at home. Furthermore, the majority of single parents are women, placing an even greater burden on mothers who have no help. This leads to women having less time for paid work, education, and career adjustment, which fuels existing economic and social problems.
In relational violence.
For women who have partners, quarantining has caused a spike in domestic violence levels. Violence against women is taking on a new complexity as now exposure to Covid-19 is being used as a threat to get women to stay. It has been recorded that there has been an increase in calls to crisis lines, online searches related to intimate partner violence, and actual reports of abuse. On the other hand, some countries are seeing a decrease in reporting due to increased barriers for victims, such as being sheltered in a place with their abusers and not being able to evade them to seek help.
Meanwhile, support services are highly strained as organisations focused on gender-based violence are already facing reduced operations or shutdowns and are not easily accessible anymore as they are not seen as essential services.
Adopting an intersectional lens to understand inequalities.
The most striking issue to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic is the lack of consideration of gender and its intersections as critical moderations of health and well-being. Many have shifted their attention towards tackling the pandemic and in doing so, have seemed to forget the systematic problems that already plague society and that, in many cases, have intensified due to the pandemic. The Covid-19 virus is a biological illustration and of existing social inequalities as it disproportionately affects those already marginalized within societies. Going forward, cutting-edge methods are needed for understanding the experiences of different groups, and how they can be supported during the pandemic and beyond. Without awareness and adequate scientific representation of marginalized groups, effective policies and interventions cannot be made.
In addition, social psychologists must do their part by contributing to an understanding of what is needed to level the gendered playing field, while ensuring that they challenge binary conceptualization of gender, broaden their focus across gendered groups, and adopt an intersectional lens in their research.

Nomzamo Dikana

Humanitarian