Often, when a woman is tested for her grit, she comes out stronger and more empowered. That is exactly what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women displayed more resilience than men and have been very instrumental in keeping their families, work, and the community together. They have adapted to daily lives and newer work patterns, and have responded phenomenally to the crisis - be it, physical, emotional, financial, or societal. It can be confidently said, that if COVID19 pandemic was a war, then women were the warriors who won the battle for us in many ways. I believe that with this learning, women have taken tangible actions to make a lasting positive change for a more equal and inclusive world.
A global Deloitte report on ‘Understanding the impact of the pandemic on working women’, revealed that out of 400 women from across nine countries, around 82% felt a negative disruption of their lives and 70% women feel that this disruption might limit their growth. This too is evident in the healthcare sector as healthcare leaders, primary caregivers, nurses, doctors, and rural health workers, have been playing a significant role during this pandemic. However, women in this profession have felt heightened stress and disruption and are worried about progression.
The health status of nurses, frontline workers and first response caregiver also raises concerns; but this isn’t a new concern. Even before the crisis hit, these long-term workforces suffered disproportionately from health problems; the pandemic only added to the trouble.
Taking actionable measures to encourage and support women in healthcare
To take active measures one needs to realize this fact that healthcare entities and especially hospitals, for decades have primarily thrived on female workforce. Women make up for almost 70% of the healthcare workforce, exposing them to a greater risk of infection. At the same time, women also shoulder much of the burden at home, given the online schooling for kids, caring for the elderly at home while shouldering workplace requirements. Moreover, according to the OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), women carry out far more care work than men – up to ten times as much!
One thing that the pandemic thought us and which extremely rational for all those who argue for and against gender equality, is that the virus sees no difference. It has affected everyone; the stats were about people. Healthcare providers went on a war footing to combat the crisis. Which only proves that the tide is changing. We can soon hope to see a world far more inclusive.
Having said that, women in healthcare, especially nurses, doctors, paramedics, and frontline workers in the las few months have given it their all to safeguard our nation. Industry and government must by all means, take early steps to project and promote this progression. Policy responses must be immediate, and they must account for women’s concerns more holistically. Fundamentally, all policy responses to the crisis must embed a gender lens and account for women’s unique needs, responsibilities, and perspectives.