Gender and COVID-19: Let’s Make Better Decisions

By Katarina Uherova Hasbani & INSEAD IWiB Global Executive Committee

10 April 2020. 1,484,811 recorded cases. 85,538 deaths. 185 countries affected.  That is the sobering, current statistics of the COVID-19 outbreak. We need all brains in the business to innovate our way of the current crisis. Addressing the gender dimension of the outbreak will be critical for making sure we collectively, as a global community of  leaders, develop an informed view and better decision-making. Let’s do things better now. 

Gender statistics are not systematically available. The world is in a fire-fighting mode and resources are scarce. Some available data indicates that women are less affected than men in terms of number of deaths. Although, the good news ends there. Overall, women could be affected  by the ongoing crisis disproportionately compared to men. Women are already starting from a position of inequality in terms of their economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. As a reminder, the world’s top 10 countries based on the World Economic Forum – Gender Gap Report 2020, achieve only a score from 0.87 to 0.78 where 1 is full gender equality. 

This article outlines some of the gender dimensions that have been raised to the surface since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of the year. 

  • Women are on the frontline of the healthcare workforce treating COVID-19 across the world. As an example, in the US, women hold 76% of healthcare jobs. For registered nurses, this number could be as high as 85%. Their lives, health and families are disproportionately impacted given the high spread of virus among treating personnel in
    hospital. Available data from Italy shows that 9% of the country’s COVID-19 cases are nurses.
  • Women are shouldering more responsibility at home with closure of schools in Asia, Europe and most recently in the US. They are also taking responsibility for caring for the  elderly who have been encouraged to stay home ahead of country-wide lockdown measures given their health vulnerability. This limits women’s availability to continue working in their daily jobs over short to medium term. 
  • Women and their children are subject to increased probability of domestic violence with nowhere to escape. The situation was acknowledged for example by France’s Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa who also pointed at reduced capacity of facilities that usually support victims of domestic abuse.
  • Pregnant women are faced with concerns about their medical treatment during pregnancy and birth with increased strain on medical facilities across the world. The risk of transmission of coronavirus from mother to the child is not fully understood, which adds to the uncertainty. It is encouraging that several cases from Singapore indicate that mothers do not pass the disease on to their newborns.
  • All of the impacts are compounded by the situations of economic hardship, when families, women and men alike will lose their jobs and livelihoods. The situation will be serious in both developed and developing countries and exacerbated in situations where governments do not provide social security support. 

 

We will continue to monitor the developments and call for action on the gender dimension of the COVID-19 outbreak. Get in touch if you want to raise awareness about your activities around gender impacts of COVID-19 or call for volunteers. 

Contact iwib@insead.edu or reach out to Katarina Uherova Hasbani directly at katarina.uherovahasbani@insead.edu

End Notes:

1)Statista, Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in Germany in 2020, by gender, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1105512/coronavirus-covid-19-deaths-by-gender-germany/, viewed on 28 March 2020. 

2) World Economic Forum,  Mind the 100 Year, Gap,https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality, viewed on 28 March 2020.

3) We use information from COVID-19: the gendered impacts of the outbreak by the Members of the Gender and COVID-19 Working Group, which is available on The Lancet, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30526-2/fulltext (viewed on 28 March 2020) and other referenced open sources in this article. Data and analysis is scarce and continues to develop. This article is based on open source research by the author.

4) The US Census Bureau, Women Hold 76% of All Health Care Jobs, Gaining in Higher-Paying, Occupationshttps://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/08/your-health-care-in-womens-hands.html, viewed on 28 March 2020.

5) Nursing Times, Nurses among confirmed deaths from Covid-19 around the world, https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/coronavirus/nurses-among-confirmed-deaths-from-covid-19-around-the-world-20-03-2020/, viewed on 28 March 2020.

6) RFI, ‘Not just a health issue’: How Covid-19 is quietly eroding women’s rights, http://www.rfi.fr/en/france/20200326-coronavirus-domestic-violence-gender-perspectives, viewed on 28 March 2020.

7) UNPF, Women, girls, health workers must not be overlooked in global COVID-19 response, https://www.unfpa.org/press/women-girls-health-workers-must-not-be-overlooked-global-covid-19-response, viewed on 28 March 2020.

8) Asian Scientist, Pregnant Mums Unlikely To Transmit COVID-19 To Newborns, https://www.asianscientist.com/2020/03/health/covid-19-pregnant-mothers-newborn/, viewed on 28 March 2020.