With the pandemic´s impact on the working woman´s work-life balance, the future of women in the workforce could regress by decades.
Among the pandemic´s many adverse impacts, one of them is that office goers have had to do a complete turnaround in lifestyle. The working mother’s struggle in maintaining work-life balance while working from home has become even more difficult, giving rise to new mental pressures.
According to a report from [email protected] on the impact of COVID-19 on the women workforce in the formal sector in India, 38.5% of working women surveyed said they were adversely affected by the load of extra housework, childcare, and eldercare, while 43.7% said that work-life balance was now worse.
In the Indian workforce, in the past two decades (2010-2020), the male workforce has been declining by 5.59%, while the female workforce shot down by 20.38%. Many women have even quit their jobs.
How can these women cope with these new pressures that are unlikely to go away soon?
Responsibilities have doubled in catering to everyone, all the time, all day. Not being able to spend time with oneself to recharge has had a severe impact on mental wellbeing
“The pandemic has stolen the ‘me time’ of a woman. Responsibilities have doubled in catering to everyone, all the time, all day. Not being able to spend time with oneself to recharge has had a severe impact on mental wellbeing,” Priya Kumar, the founder of Priya Kumar´s Training System (PKTS) and Genius Inside, an AI-powered digital platform of transformation (Learning and Development EdTech), told The Tech Panda.
Kumar is an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker and the only author to have won 42 international awards. She adds that the current challenge is bigger than what women have always struggled with.
“A woman’s struggle to balance work life, or family life with ´me´ time, or any balance for that matter, has been an eternal struggle. It’s not just motherhood that comes in the way. There are multiple roles a woman plays all her life, and the balance has always been a challenge.
“But yes, the challenge is graver now, because being away at work also allowed a greater focus at work. But being at home, the responsibilities are in your face and hence the delegation is tough,” she says.
Delegate the Responsibility and Take Breaks
Kumar´s advice to working mothers is to involve other family members for delegated housework.
“To set agreements, especially if your children are grown up, to get support from your spouse and other family members becomes important. Remember, while you are the mother, there are other relationships your children have too. Bring them in to share the responsibility so that work does not suffer,” she says.
To set agreements, especially if your children are grown up, to get support from your spouse and other family members becomes important
It´s also important for women to take a break from time to time. Kumar advises doing so in the form of a walk or taking some time to silently meditate.
“Go for a walk, there is no other substitute for clearing your head. Yes, if you can create a space of silence to meditate, then you are already a hero, but if there are too many disturbances and demands in your environment, a 30-minute walk a day without your phone will help you gain clarity and clear the clutter that finds home in your mind during the day,” she says.
The Road Ahead Could Be Backwards
According to a policy brief from the United Nations on the impact of COVID-19 on women, “there will be aggravated impacts of COVID-19 for women already living on the economic margins.” Their numbers say that women spend three times more hours than men in unpaid care and domestic work, which limits their access to decent work.
While 94% of men between the ages of 25 and 54 years are in the labour force, the number for women is just 63%. It´s no wonder that the global gender pay gap is stuck at 16%, with women paid up to 35% less than men in some countries.
The road ahead for working women is indeed grim. A McKinsey & Company report says the COVID-19 crisis could set women back half a decade. This is based on the fact that they found that two million women in American corporate spaces alone were thinking of quitting their jobs.
Women and men have worked hard to close the gender gap in the workforce. A pandemic shouldn’t be allowed to come along and ruin all the ongoing efforts. Otherwise, the future of women in the workforce could regress by decades, a chilling thought.