Andrea Ubhi shines a light on gender, equality and inequality and the great work undertaken to address the balance.
We need change
Let’s face it, no matter if you are an owner, leader or a corporate-suite member, for everyone lockdown life has been a challenge. Add in childcare and home schooling to the mix and the past months have for many been about getting through each day.
As we move forward and look to rebuild in every sense, I believe we mustn’t replicate our approach pre-COVID.
Instead, look at all the ‘impossibles’ that we made ‘possible’ during lockdown. No matter how small, because of the situation we were in, we came together in our household to share the load of everyday life and the division of labour.
I am fully aware that this was not the case for everyone. This period may cement the divide further and is even more reason why we need change.
Gender childcare gap
A recent study from the department of economics at Bristol University, by Almudena Sevilla and Sarah Smith, suggested that because of COVID-19, the gender childcare gap had been reduced between men and women, and could result in positive changes for families with younger children post-lockdown.
This was owing to the ‘shocks on demand’ for childcare because of men working from home, furlough and job losses.
The research highlighted whilst our research did not focus on men and women in the dental profession, the data and insights are relevant as the results are extrapolated to the general population.
The ‘temporary shocks’ caused change in the balance of childcare between genders. We remain to see whether the change is a permanent one.
When we look at paternity leave policies, they suggest that temporary changes can have longer-term effects on social norms. This is evidenced by increases in the time that fathers spend in household activities, including childcare.
The pandemic brought profound changes. The total amount of at home childcare completely dwarfs the usual amounts because of the closure of almost all formal childcare.
The impact has also been across the board, affecting all families. Meaning that almost all men have increased the quantity of childcare that they do. The second difference is that this is not a deliberate policy to promote a more equal distribution of childcare. But an unintended consequence of measures to stop a virus spreading.
The changes that have been brought about may need to be recognised and reinforced to have longer-term effects.
Equality begins at home
When husbands and wives both work full time, the wife does 40% more childcare and 30% more housework. That’s according to one US study.
Isn’t it time we recognise and reinforce change as its research concluded?
If we want equality in the workplace, and to be able to have the time to take up leadership positions, then we have to have equality at home. Because we cannot do it all.
For women to take up more leadership roles, then we need more equality at home.
It’s only fair for the men that they get the equal opportunity to work less hours. And the opportunity to focus more time forging relationships with their children, partner and family.
When fathers provide even just routine child care, children have higher levels of educational and economic achievement and lower delinquency rates.
Lockdown may have ‘shocked’ us into sharing the load on chores, childcare and sharing workloads.
Equality works both ways. We need a society where everyone thrives. Women and men.
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