Pandemic and the rise of female talent

While we find ourselves without a help at home, many people have discovered that domestic work and child care is pricey. Both men and women have discovered that chores need not be gendered – cooking and washing are not womanly just as changing the light bulbs and driving the car are not manly jobs. Anyone can do any type of work.

One of the fallouts of the covid-19 outbreak is loss of jobs and salary cuts across the board. This has seen women finding job opportunities to complement the family income.

The other day a friend of mine mentioned that her husband, who is an engineer, has been seeing a significant drop in his earnings in this year while the demand for her online tuition classes is flourishing and the family thrives on her earnings. She did not want to be a teacher by choice but now her earnings are a significant source of income for the family. Another one I met, mentioned that her in-laws are now thankful for her salaried job in a private company since there has been zero revenue from the family business for the last two months.

Once we are out of this pandemic, we are going to see a change in the earning bulks of the men, who have the traditional providers role. Just as women entered the “work-world” in scores due to the pandemic, this year sees some major changes in the job market. There are women waiting to become active partners in their husband’s business ventures to cut the costs down of hiring someone from the outside and train them for the task. Nonetheless, there are still many men and their families who raise an eyebrow on the women stepping out to work but commercial inevitabilities make everyone adapt to survive.

Once we settle down with the fact of women working outside and taking the lead, work from home has been the norm during these lockdown days. This format of work may be seen for an extensive period of time. There are companies in the service industry that would be seeing following this norm as a way of reducing expenditures and employee costs. This opens up possibilities for women for many reasons. Women, (in this corner of the world who pray to get a seat in a local bus) can avoid long commutes which is restraining for many to join the workforce. We would also see it as a blessing for mothers who can be physically present at home to supervise their children. One more major plus point I see with the work from home system is that it would reduce sexual harassment at workplace and during the travel to work permitting safer work surroundings.

Of course, like any other newly brought up system, the work from home has its downsides too.  Many women prefer to work than stay home for reasons like one wouldn’t see it healthy for their psyche to sit within the four walls of the house all day and not explore an inch of this wide world. For some women working outside homes gives them a chance to escape the unnecessary tiffs that build up with other members of the house. Basically, sitting home and working from your laptop requires greater negotiation and understanding; sitting in front of a laptop is a legitimate work that does not allow for disturbances and interruptions.

To sum this all up, women have managed the coronavirus crisis with self-confidence. It seems that in the midst of one of our darkest moments, women leadership and workforce have never been more appreciated. Michelle Obama once said that “the difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued.” We cannot afford to lose female talent when we need it the most.

Here are 6 reasons why:

First, we have more women leaders with proven track records

Second, we have more qualified women entering the workforce than ever before and this will only continue as women outnumber men in post-secondary education.

Third, in recent years, women have organized and spoken out, pushing for women’s issues – from fair pay to #MeToo with no signs of slowing down or going silent any time soon.

Fourth, women’s unique skill sets are well-suited for our post-pandemic world. The mix of responsibilities many women have – from home to housekeeping to jobs – give us “peripheral vision” and make us more decisive, open to cooperation, able to solve problems compassionately, and less likely to be authoritarian. Once seen as a career-killer, women’s caregiving and family responsibilities are finally being recognized as business assets.

Fifth, the pandemic has impacted the careers of millions with unemployment rates and career breaks only soaring. But with tens of millions currently filing for unemployment, and eventually seeking work, it’s not just men who will make up the “returners”, even the women will be hired on a large scale.

And finally, as more women leaders emerge, we will see a greater focus on community and the other softer skills that humanize the workforce like empathy, gratitude and listening. We’ll see an emphasis on decisiveness and prioritizing what’s important in order to take swift action. We’ll see a renewed focus on collaboration, teamwork and taking time to continuously grow and fine-tune leadership skills.

I know women workforce do invest with time, tools and technologies to make progress happen. It would be appreciated of the authorities to build new ways to have a close watch on the women who are constantly contributing in the society, track their income progress, and support them in all ways. We know how important organization and encouragement are when we feel isolated – especially during stressful times.

Farah Khan is Educator at Middle School Department of G. D. Goenka Public School, Srinagar