Women in the workplace in Northern Ireland; IWD 2021

Women in the workplace in Northern Ireland; IWD 2021

 8th Mar 2021


110 years ago, International Women’s Day was created. There have been numerous hard-won gains made on women’s rights and equality since it began in 1911However, this IWD 2021, we are seeing the detrimental impact Covid-19 has had on female equalityNew global data from the UN women suggests that the pandemic could wipe out 25 years’ of work towards gender equality.   


Covid-19 has disproportionately affected female equality in both the workplace and the home. According to the Telegraph: 


  • Mothers are spending around 10 hours a day looking after children – two hours more than fathers 

  • Almost 20% of women work in sectors that have suffered job losses and earnings cuts, compared to 13% of men 

  • Mothers are 47% more likely than fathers to have lost or quit their job since the lockdown began 

  • Around 16% of mothers are no longer in work as a result of the pandemic, compared to 11% of fathers 


Diversity and equality in the workplace NI & UK 


Over the past 20 years the employment rate for males in NI has been consistently higher than for females.  Even though in 2019, women are more likely than men to possess higher level educational qualifications, with women accounting for 56 per cent of those with a degree-level qualification or higher (Census 2019).  Nearly a third of working-age women are not in the labour force compared with over a fifth of working age men. The most common reason for inactivity among women was due to family and home commitments, while the most common reason for men was sickness or disability (NISRA, 2020). This has been brought to light recently during the pandemic.  


LinkedIn data (2020) showed that women have been disproportionately adversely affected by Covid 19 and the pandemic in terms of hiring, confidence and stress levels. Women were less likely to be hired than men during peak lockdown; hiring of women reached its lowest point in April at 41.5%.  


79% of NHS staff in 2019 in Northern Ireland were women. Aessential workers many will have struggled with childcare, and stress of homeschooling.  


In the UK, 2.85million people were lone parents caring for a child/children, 2.45million of these lone parents were women compared to 0.4million being men (ONS, 2019). Many would have been faced with the difficulties of managing work with increasingly limited childcare options.    


But let's focus on the positives, some of the successes of women over the last year should be celebrated and these include 


  • In countries with women leaders, including New Zealand, Germany, Finland, Bangladesh and more, the quick and decisive actions of the women in charge led to lower cases and lower deaths. 
  • The Northern Ireland women's football team has surged into the World's top 50 for the first time ever. 
  • US elects first women vice-president, Kamala Harris  
  • Two women take home a Nobel Prize in Chemistry 


Supporting women post-pandemic                


Janine ChamberlinDirector at LinkedIn, said: Employers have the opportunity to create more flexibility so that women do not have to choose between their children and their careers, and it is reassuring to see that this is top of mind for many business leaders today. Now is the time for organisations to consider flexible hours and remote working. These initiatives can go a long way in helping to retain women in the workforce.” 


According to McKinsey & Co, taking action now to advance gender equality will be valuable, adding $13 trillion to global GDP in 2030 compared with a gender-regressive scenario.  


Employers should have a proactive policy in place to encourage equality and diversity in the workplace. According to a recent study by Deloittethe following actions are critical for post-pandemic advancements for the working woman:  


  • Flexible working 

  • Leading with empathy and trust  

  • Creating learning opportunities 

  • Promote networking, mentorship and sponsorship as a way to grow anlearn 

  • Reward and promotion processes need to consider unconscious bias  

  • Diversity, respect and inclusion should be lived in your company everyday  


The official theme for IWD 2021 is "Choose to Challenge", recognising the need to call out gender bias and inequality. There is urgent work to do - we can all play a part. 


Written by 

Sarah McGimpsey 

Senior Recruiter, celebrating IWD 2021.  


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