Can the COVID-19 Crisis Be a Breakthrough for Gender Equality?
In downturns and disasters throughout history, gender equality has been set back as women have stepped forward. There’s a growing volume of data that suggests women will be disproportionately affected by the current global crisis. Women are overrepresented in the types of jobs being eliminated or furloughed, such as service industry positions in hospitality, travel, retail and childcare. At the start of the pandemic in the U.S., in March, 60 percent of jobs lost domestically belonged to women. By May 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate for women was 14.3 percent versus 11.9 percent for men.
For women in many countries who haven’t lost their jobs, work-life balance pressures are mounting – and the pressure is even higher for multicultural women. Experts have also warned that the crisis will have a staggering, long-term impact on girls’ education around the world.
As organizations everywhere prioritize employee health and safety and the continuity of their operations – the temptation to divert attention from gender equality is high. But there’s another way to think about this.
The new ways of living, working, shopping, schooling, staying connected and supporting one another that we’ve adopted so rapidly during COVID-19 remind us that anything is possible. Instead of a setback, what if the current crisis can be a breakthrough for gender equality?
Companies and organizations can come together to create dialog that can change mindsets, remove barriers to economic equality, and adopt new ways of working to better support women and men. Here are a few of the steps we’re taking at P&G:
• Inside P&G, we continue to make progress toward our aspiration of 50:50 representation of women and men at every level. On P&G’s Board of Directors, 50 percent of our independent directors are now women, along with 50% of our business unit CEOs and 48 percent of our managers companywide. We remain steadfast in our commitments to flexibility at work, intentional career planning, equal pay, and paid parental leave – which are proven accelerators of gender equality. With leadership and intentionality, we can make faster progress. Read about lessons learned through COVID-19 that we must not unlearn here.
• Together with the Seneca Women Podcast Network, iHeartRadio and iHeart Podcasts, we launched #Senecas100WomentoHear, a podcast that celebrates 100 diverse women in who have shaped the present and who are designing our future. The first episode recognized women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth followed by an amazing line up of speakers including Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex; Madeleine Albright, the first woman Secretary of State; soccer legend Abby Wambach; activist, educator and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham; Co-Founder and CEO of All In Together Lauren Leader, and many more. To learn from these inspiring women, listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.
• We are also a proud founding contributor to the Women’s Economic Future Fund, created by Seneca Women and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, designed to support 10 women-led non-profits that are providing economic, health and education assistance to women around the world.
• As part of the Seneca Women Podcast Network, Carolyn Tastad, Group President – North America and Chief Sales Officer and Deanna Bass, Vice President of Global Equality & Inclusion for P&G, are hosting a series of provocative conversations on leadership. The new episodes on “Getting to Equal” are part of the Seneca Conversations on Power and Purpose podcast and will help listeners build an action plan for boosting women to 50 percent representation in leadership ranks. The first episode in this series features Abby Wambach and will be available on iHeart podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts on September 9.
Every company – every organization – has its unique way to contribute – its own superpower. As the world’s largest advertiser, we know that advertising affects perceptions. It influences how we see the world and has the power to spark conversations and change mindsets. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve leveraged our voice in advertising and media – our superpower – to create films and sponsor programs that shine a light on people who are disproportionately affected by this crisis – raising awareness and raising funds for relief efforts.
We released a film called Choose Equal to bring focus to ongoing gender inequalities and inspire action.
This film closes with these words: These times are not unprecedented. But they give us another chance for equality, if we all choose to step forward as equals. Care equal. Hire equal. Pay equal. Model equal. Do Equal. Choose equal. At home. At work. Right now, for an equal future.
Now more than ever, companies and organizations must remain committed to gender equality. This crisis can lead to a breakthrough on Gender Equality. It’s up to us to ensure that progress steps forward – not backwards – as we learn from this crisis.