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Addressing inequality in the workplace not only benefits underserved employees but is also good for the economy and society at large.

COVID-19 has exposed many social and economic weaknesses for businesses across all sectors, with reports of gender equality regressing over the course of the pandemic.

Last year, McKinsey published a report detailing how gender inequality in the workplace was being compounded by COVID-19.

In light of this research, we consider how revising workplace inequalities, particularly those dealing with gender, should be an important part of businesses’ post-COVID recovery strategies, along with plans for cost reduction and changes to help protect the company against future risks.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Women in the Workforce

Even when discounting the damaging effects of COVID-19, gender equality in the workplace was lagging behind gender equality in society.

According to McKinsey’s research, women’s jobs were more vulnerable to the challenges posed by the pandemic, with the estimated job loss rate reaching 1.8 times higher than the global male job loss rate.

Women are also disproportionately represented in the hardest hit sectors like food services, accommodation and retail – their jobs are 19 per cent more at risk than men’s because of the kinds of roles they take on.

It’s also been reported that women take on around 75 per cent of unpaid care work worldwide, including childcare, caring for the elderly and general domestic work – all of which became more pressing during the pandemic. This negatively affects how many women are in the workforce and their likelihood of entering technical and leadership roles.

Many are calling for policymakers to recognise and respond to the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women as economies are rebuilt.

The Economic Benefits of Gender Equality

But why should this matter to governments and businesses as they work towards recovery?

To put it simply, prioritising gender parity is good for economic growth. Businesses that invest in the relevant changes pave the way for more opportunities.

McKinsey have modelled a number of scenarios that outline various predictions for global GDP in relation to the responses to gender equality. If action to address inequality concerns is taken immediately, it’s predicted that by 2030 global GDP could see a boost of $13 trillion when compared to doing nothing.

Prioritising these issues as soon as possible benefits everyone. Companies that don’t pay attention to diversity, whether this relates to gender or other inequalities, limit their perspectives, talent pool and access to a diverse skill set, impeding their ability to remain resilient.

A proactive stance towards addressing workplace parity and recognising its importance is essential for businesses of all sizes.

How Can Businesses Fix Workplace Inequality?

We can always do more to strive for equality, especially as the pandemic has primed many businesses to think about how they can adapt and embrace change for the better.

Over the past year, it has become especially evident that employers need to address the disproportionate level of unpaid childcare undertaken by women and take action to mitigate the imbalance where relevant.

There needs to be a shift in workplace and societal norms around who is expected to do unpaid care work and who gets to keep their job when it’s threatened.

Understanding how automation may disproportionately affect women is also important. Although automation affects both men and women, women may face difficulties when making career changes as they are more likely to face barriers when it comes to being given opportunities to acquire new skills or move into leadership roles.

Business leaders must assess how they can facilitate parity and allow women or others who face inequality in the workplace to gain equal opportunities in a post-COVID world.

To help ensure the necessary changes in attitude and operations become a reality, companies need to reassess their recovery plans. Effective cost reduction strategies are an integral part of making sure your business has access to the resources it needs to change for the better and grow.

Get in touch with our expert team at Expense Reduction Analysts to find out how we could support your business as it enters the upcoming recovery period.