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A Feminist Response to the covid-induced ‘Shesession’.

The current recession is striking women. Women have lost jobs at almost twice the rate as men, and women are four times more likely than men to feel pressure to cut working hours.

By Chai SteevesPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
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A Feminist Response to the covid-induced ‘Shesession’.
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

It's not surprising. The sectors most affected by the lockdowns are those that disproportionately employ women: restaurants, retail, services.

The term "shesession" is ubiquitous, and progressive governments are pledging to take a feminist approach to get us out of this economic mess and help us 'build back better.' But can we build back better in a way that addresses some of the chronic inequities that have existed in western democracies for years? Can 'better' actually be better for those who have always had to settle for worse?

I spend a fair bit of time thinking about what the economy of the future may look like. We're seeing a lot of change now — the internet and automation/robotization is radically changing the types of work people will do. In addition, addressing climate change and decarbonizing the economy will dramatically alter how we produce goods, acquire energy, and move around.

People who study technical and social movements will tell you that it is at these moments of disruption that fundamental change is possible. When a system is already in flux - as the entire global economy is coming out of covid - people will be open to changes in ways they usually are not.

Preparing for this future will be fantastic for new, tech-oriented companies. These companies will grow, quite literally, as quickly as we can produce them and feed them with qualified employees. A friend's daughter is graduating from engineering school next year. Job offers are already flying in. But she is an exception. There are far too few people like her. And I know that as she starts to think of family, strong forces will pull her away from the workplace.

A growing field of specialists focuses on equity, diversity, and inclusiveness in economic policy. They look at policies and investments the government can make to get women back into work, post-covid. But, unfortunately, the picture they paint is not pretty. For example, job ads are subtly biased against female candidates; studies show that female job applicants are 50% less likely to get interviews for high-level jobs. There is also a raft of policies (e.g., lack of universal daycare) incentivizing women not to work. As a result, we are not doing a great job of pulling 50% of the population into leadership positions in the future economy. And we will pay a steep price for that.

Here is a critical fact — one of the biggest inhibitors of growth in Canada's high growth potential sectors is the inability to attract talent. CEOs of small and medium-size health and environmental technology companies were asked what kept them from doubling in size. It wasn't a lack of capital. It wasn't a lack of market. It was that they could not hire enough good people to fuel their growth.

So what does one conclude from that? We need women to have every opportunity and motivation possible to get into the workforce. This will be hard work and it will force us to get to the heart of why women have typically been under-represented in these future-oriented job fields. We'll need to make real concessions that allow women to lead in business as they have children. We'll need to change leadership styles, to valourize the more consensus-based, participatory management styles women tend to use. We'll need to open spaces for women on corporate boards and senior academic positions, where they are currently grossly under-represented. This may make men feel they are at a disadvantage and that the rules are changing on them - against them. But it's needed.

We need feminist-oriented policies to get us out of this "shesession."

humanity
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About the Creator

Chai Steeves

I'm an eclectic guy - I like writing about sex, relationships, parenting, politics, celebrity trivia - the works. I'm happily married and a father of 2.

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