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Working mothers and the pandemic

Working mothers and the pandemic

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Monday, March 8 is International Women’s Day which will be celebrated this year under the theme #ChoosetoChallenge with a call to action for us to all step up and challenge inequity.

We have chosen to focus today on the effect of the global coronavirus pandemic on working mothers everywhere and why equality is not always equity.

Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial, and while a group of employees may have equal benefits and conditions of employment, those conditions may have been established with a particular type of employee in mind, which might make succeeding particularly challenging for an employee with different life circumstances, for example a single mother with young children.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the inequities inherent in employment and parenting very much to the fore, and for International Women’s Day 2021, it would be appropriate to focus our attention on working mothers, and to ask ourselves how can they be better supported in their efforts to look after their families while succeeding in the workplace, especially amidst a global pandemic.

Schools are closed and many women must leave their children at home, unsupervised while they go out to earn a living.

Worrying about what is happening at home affects their productivity at work and the children, with no one to ensure that they participate in their classes in the manner they should, sometimes fall behind or get involved in inappropriate activities. Our mothers (and fathers) should be supported and their burdens eased by allowing them to have flexible working hours, or work from home options where possible, without their prospects for advancement in the work place being affected. We should also go out of our way to support working mothers who have opened small businesses to keep food on the table while allowing themselves the flexibility to provide the care and supervision their children need.

Globally, women have been disproportionately affected by the fallout from the pandemic. In the United States, 5.4 million women have lost their jobs since February 2020, and there are three working mothers who are unemployed for every father who had lost a job (as at September 2020). Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, as at July 2020, 57 per cent of the beneficiaries of the Government’s Covid-19 income support programme and the unemployment benefit of the National Insurance Service were women.

As we ponder an appropriate manner in which to honour our women as we approach International Women’s Day, let’s #ChoosetoChallenge inequity in the workplace.