COVID-19 Could Undo Decades of Women’s Progress

COVID-19 Could Undo Decades of Women’s Progress

How to Counter the Pandemic’s Gender-Regressive Shock

Over the past nine months, the global spread of COVID-19 has forced governments and businesses around the world to take drastic action—both to protect public health and to mitigate the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on national economies and citizens’ finances. Bold new fiscal packages and corporate policies, many of which would have seemed unthinkable before the crisis, have been enacted with remarkable speed. While these initiatives have helped to stabilize the global economy during a once-in-a-lifetime emergency, far too many of them have failed to sufficiently consider the half of the world’s population that is arguably more critical to a full economic recovery: women.

Though men are more likely to become severely ill or to die from the novel coronavirus, the economic effects of COVID-19 have hit women harder. Worldwide, the pandemic has devastated female-dominated fields, while increasing the unpaid caregiving responsibilities that women disproportionately shoulder. If policymakers and corporate leaders do not make women’s economic participation central to their post-pandemic recovery planning, even the modest economic gains that women have made in recent decades will be lost—and the world’s economic prospects will significantly weaken as a result.