Australian workplaces may well have changed permanently as a result of COVID-19. According to Femeconomy founder Jade Collins, there may be a silver lining to the pandemic.
This post was authored by QSuper She’s on Q and first published as Pandemic may lead to permanent workplace change.
Femeconomy is a national membership organisation that educates and encourages purchasing from female-led brands to support gender equality, and Ms Collins was a guest speaker at QSuper’s 6 August 2020 She’s on Q event, which focused on resilience and the new working world, and tackled topics such as resilience at work; innovations evolving from the COVID-19 lockdown, and tips to navigate ‘the new normal’.
Ms Collins spoke of how through her role with Femeconomy she had witnessed how women had been affected by and were responding to the pandemic.
Ms Collins said she believed women were shouldering the brunt of the economic fallout from coronavirus and the effects the pandemic had wrought on employment, job security and the workplace.
These thoughts were backed up by recent data from the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
“I think it [COVID-19] has impacted women more than men. Women’s job security is more tenuous, we know this already,” Ms Collins said.
“Women have been affected both by job losses and reduced hours. And if you’re a woman with a family, that has been compounded by things like home schooling, which I think it has been unseen and an unexpected additional burden of care that predominantly women have taken on.”
How COVID can help gender equality in the workplace
At almost 16 million cases and more than 640,000 deaths worldwide the human cost of COVID-19 is tragic. As businesses and service providers have scrambled to adapt to social distancing and travel bans, Ms Collins hopes that the flexible work practices that have resulted in some industries can be retained in the ‘new normal’.
She said that if there was any ‘silver lining to come from the COVID-19 experience, from a gender equality point of view’, it was that it had enabled more men to work remotely and flexibly and to share the household burden a little more.
From a cultural perspective and from a policy perspective, opportunities in many organisations had now changed, she said.
“As a community, and from a cultural change point of view, perhaps leadership that was more traditional and conservative, and who really relied on that attendance mentality to manage their workforce, has seen how productive people can be working from home and working flexibly. My prediction and hope is that will continue.”
Female-led businesses ahead of the curve
Ms Collins said Femeconomy was aware of many female-led businesses that already offered employees many flexibility options.
Femeconomy-approved brands require at least 30% of women on the board of directors or 50% female ownership.
“So many of our business that are female-led already offer flexible or remote working. It’s an integral part of their business,” Ms Collins said.
“In so many of the conversations that I’ve had during this period, it’s been interesting that their workforce has actually required very little adjustment because people were already accessing those benefits and working in that way.
“That’s been a real advantage because it can be a real leadership challenge to get those structures up while you are trying to pivot the business, especially having to do so under duress or having to do so really rapidly,” she said.
Gender equality in the post-COVID ‘new normal’
Ms Collins said retaining the work-related lessons learned during this time would benefit gender equality over the long term.
“We need to make sure that as we go back or settle back into a new normal that we take with us the lessons from this time, and actually use this opportunity to change some of the obstructions that continue to disadvantage women, and also men, in regards to equality,” she said.
The power of the female dollar
Another shift that had emerged was that people were more aware that where they spent their money could have an impact on society, Ms Collins said.
“With all of the changes and disasters that have happened in 2020, people are really becoming more conscious of those things and making conscious purchasing decisions to buy locally and buy ethically, basically business for good.
“By supporting brands with female leaders who are actually helping to create gender equality for families and for communities, people can shop and spend knowing they are helping to support gender equality.”
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.
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