It has been more than a century since the International Labour Organization first developed employment rules for women, with an emphasis on maternity protection. Things have definitely evolved in a century, and we can all refer to women who are earning a livelihood, building up careers, succeeding in business, and taking on positions of authority.
However, for several women, the situation is drastically different. The pandemic is partially responsible as it exacerbates pre-existing inequities and has an undue influence on women’s employment. Women are also more likely to be driven out of the labor force and into the more insecure shadow economy.
Even prior to the COVID outbreak, the situation was far from ideal. Just a few years ago, the International Labour Organization’s premier study, “A Quantum Leap for Gender Equality for the Future of Work,” showed how momentum in eliminating gender inequalities had halted and, in certain cases, reversed.
A variety of issues prohibit women from joining, continuing, and advancing in the labor field. Unwaged care work is at the number one spot, with women bearing a disproportionate share of the responsibility globally. Women’s unpaid care work decreased by only 15 minutes per day from 1997 to 2012, whereas men’s increased by 8 minutes per day.
Women keep holding fewer occupations and working in fewer industries than men. Those who work in the same profession as men are nonetheless paid less. As per ILO data, less than one-third of managers worldwide are women, a condition that has altered little in the last 30 years. Women with children have additional disadvantages in terms of employment, compensation, and leadership chances. These consequences follow a woman all her life, sometimes resulting in poverty in her later years.
Aggression and abuse are intolerable and tend to have a negative influence on women’s employment involvement. It is still a sickeningly common occurrence, regardless of country, status, or industry.
How can this gap be closed?
The gender gap can be curbed. How? through a “quantum leap.” Gender equality in the workplace necessitates a “quantum leap” rather than cautious, incremental advances. Governments, labor and business groups, women’s organizations, schools and universities, and all individuals like us must play a part.
How to make significant changes for working women?
These four important areas can lead to major progress for women in the workplace:
- Tackle unpaid care responsibilities: The massive inequality in unpaid care responsibilities amongst men and women should be addressed. Men should do more and enjoy an improved work-life balance. More workplace assistance and engagement, such as rules that provide for more adaptable working hours and professions, is also important.
- Better legislation: Governments must develop policies and laws that improve women’s labor-force participation and access to higher-skilled, better-paying jobs and opportunities. One example is investing in publicly funded, easily accessible specialist care services.
- Prevention of sexual harassment: Gender-based abuse and misconduct, including sexual harassment, are abhorrent and must be handled. Because it was created by global employment organizations, the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention offers a defined structure and actual measures in this area. Every nation should prioritize the adoption and application of the Violence and Harassment Convention.
- Adequate representation: women’s voices, presence, and participation must be supported at all levels. Prejudice in employment and promotion must be eliminated, and affirmative measures must be taken to finally close intractable gender disparities.
The marginal utility of not addressing gender equality at work is tremendous. There is no point in wasting time, regardless of the shadow cast by COVID-19. This is the time to exhibit resolve and make gutsy decisions. We can reduce inequities and tear down boundaries by working collaboratively.