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Women Work Through The Night During COVID To Balance Domestic And Professional Tasks

Women are juggling work and domestic responsibilities during COVID lockdown
Women are juggling work and domestic responsibilities during COVID lockdown
  • Taking on additional household roles can affect women’s careers, education, and wellbeing
  • Multi-tasking should be avoided, not congratulated
  • COVID pandemic should not signify a step-back in terms of gender equality

As COVID has shut down workplaces and schools across all corners of the globe, its women that have been taking the brunt of the upheaval.

According to new research from Professor Nathalie Clavijo from NEOMA Business School and Professor Ludivine Perray-Redslob from emlyon Business School, women have been taking care of children and managing a surplus of chores within the home, and all whilst trying to hold down their professional occupations.

And this, unsurprisingly, is affecting their wellbeing, their careers and their education, according to the researchers.

“Even when women are the ‘breadwinners’ of the family, providing financial support to the rest of the family, their internalisation of their role as ‘caregivers’ is leading them to think that they are the ones who are supposed to take care of the children” says Clavijo.

During their study, which was carried out by conducting interviews and collecting comments from online communities of parents, Clavijo and Perray-Redslob found that many working-mothers felt more vulnerable and anxious than men regarding their employment in a fragile economy, and subsequently they worked harder than usual to protect their position.

As a result, Clavijo and Perray-Redslob found that in order to somehow safeguard their careers, many women had been stretching themselves by working before their children got up, after they had gone to bed, at night, and on weekends. Others had been dealing with insomnia, often caused by the anxiety they felt regarding potential marginalisation from their workplace.

This negative effect on women’s mental health as a result of this additional workload has, and will continue to be, enormous. Research by UCL School of Management shows that women in England consistently reported higher levels of depression, loneliness and major stress than men between March and September 2020, and that they were much more likely to have experienced anxiety during the pandemic.

It would appear that this is not only a problem for mothers and working women, but for young girls too. In a recent report by the Guardian, it claimed that girls and young women aged between 14 and 24 are taking responsibility for the majority of household chores during the pandemic, leaving them less time to focus on their education.

These findings support Clavijo and Perray-Redslob’s research further, highlighting that when women and girls are prevented from going to work or school, they easily became trapped in performing traditional household roles which can affect their careers, education and their overall wellbeing.

Therefore, despite the progresses made over the last decades to help women enter the job market, many still feel confined into and hampered by their housework and caregiver role. As Clavijo and Perray-Redslob explain, the pandemic has only emphasized further how behind the scenes, women and girls are still confronted with powerful gendered norms, which is having a considerably negative impact on their lives.

In response to this, governments across the world should take notice of the effect the pandemic has had on women’s education, careers, and mental wellbeing. Girls education should be at the forefront of governmental agendas by expanding budgets for schools, colleges and universities, and policies should be created prompting fathers to be more involved in domestic and caregiving tasks. Although there is still a long way to go, the pandemic should not signify a step back, but instead should be seen as lesson and an opportunity to confront the damaging gender norms ingrained within society.

“More than ever, this pandemic shows that gender equality is not just a question of financial independence or career valorization. Gender norms are at the root of such inequalities and must be addressed and explained so that equality is fully redesigned,” says Perray-Redslob.

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