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The role of women empowerment in global recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis resulting from it is having a huge devasting effect on women. Women’s salaries continue to be lower than men’s ones and women are more likely to work in sectors strongly impacted by the pandemic, such as health care or education and their tasks often require staying in contact with elderly people or children. Women currently make up 70% of the global workforce in health and caregiving sectors.

The report “Women in the workplace” written by McKinsey in 2020 focuses on the negative consequences of the pandemic on women in leadership positions and working mothers. The pandemic intensified working mothers’ challenges because they have to work at home while taking care of the house and of their children, also helping them with remote teaching and homework.

Because of this situation, 1 out of 4 women affirmed that she is thinking about the possibility to leave her job and to pause her career. This means that corporations are facing a concrete risk to lose women in leadership positions, losing all the progresses made in recent years in terms of Diversity and Inclusion.

Women still earn less than men and are facing a higher risk of violence now that they have to stay at home.

The World Bank’s report “Women, Business and the law 2021” analyzed laws and regulations that affect women’s opportunities in 190 economies through 8 indicators: Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets and Pension.

There are some good results because, despite the pandemic, many economies managed to improve their score on gender equality and made it a priority in the government agenda, especially in Middle East and North Africa. In particular, they eliminated some of the job restrictions and are trying to reduce the gender pay gap in some industries. Some of the countries analyzed removed or are currently removing constraints to women’s entrepreneurship and obligations related to marriage and parenthood.

The report calculated that on average women have ¾ of men’s rights. Now more than ever, it is necessary to implement new laws that safeguard women’s rights related to financial independency, economic opportunities, access to childcare, access to judicial system and protection from domestic violence.

The United Nations estimate that, due to this period of crisis, 47 million more women and girls than before will have to live below the line of poverty, with a devasting impact on the future generations in terms of quality of life and education. ILO estimated that during the next months we will face the loss of 200.000.000 full-time jobs because the crisis is forcing companies to focus on the very short term.

So, what governments, international organizations and private companies should do in order to promote a global recovery based on women economic empowerment?

· Ensure an equal representation of women and men in decision-making processes and increase the number of women in companies’ BoD

· Promote an equal division of housework and family care work between women and men by giving them flexible working hours and the same parental leave plans.

· Promote women’s entrepreneurship and women-owned business with government subsidies by making sure that they receive an important part of the bailout funds announced by governments in many countries around the world.

· Support workers’ rights in MNCs supply chains by making sure that women working in their factories have access to acceptable working conditions, a decent salary, social protection and by fighting discrimination and abuses with tougher penalties

Laura Ieni

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