Carla La Croce (Senior Research Analyst, European Industry Solutions, Customer Insights & Analysis)

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on society and the economy, but one thing that has emerged very clearly is that the lockdowns triggered by the pandemic are taking a disproportionate toll on women in the labor market.

Women are at the heart of care and response efforts, making critical contributions every day in the fight against COVID, whether they be health professionals, scientists, caregivers (at home and in our communities), community volunteers, or logistics managers, to name a few. In the EU, 76% of healthcare workers are women, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

Laid Off Due to COVID-19

In many countries, the first round of layoffs has been particularly acute in the services sector, especially in sectors where women are overrepresented, such as retail, hospitality, and tourism. Economically, women are taking a harder hit.

All of these risks rolling back the progress that women have made in the labor force. Job losses during a recession have a durable, negative effect on future earnings and job security and women’s greater exposure to job loss is likely to exacerbate the gender gap for years to come.

Keeping Women in STEM to Get More Women in Tech

Only supporting women in all life stages to be involved in STEM studies can help in increasing women representation in the technology world.

There is a lot of evidence that having women in senior or leadership positions has a positive effect on companies’ business performance — including an increase in profits. The lack of women in STEM and in tech roles is a result of the lack of girls studying STEM-related subjects and wanting to pursue a career in the field. More women need to be attracted to the technology industry to create a larger talent pool for companies to choose from.

Other studies highlight that closing the gender gap in STEM education would have a positive impact on employment — creating new jobs and closing the gender wage gap by 2050. Having more women participating in STEM subjects will also have a strong impact on GDP at the EU level.

Flexibility Is Key

Women are an integral part of the solution to the tech skills gap and should be supported in terms of flexible work and fiscal measures.

Flexible work arrangements could be one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic, as the lack of work flexibility has been a reason for the gender pay gap. The Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) sees some signs of optimism in the longer term with many firms adopting work-from-home and telecommuting options for the first time.

In terms of work flexibility, it’s worth highlighting that tech jobs can often be carried out from home and that, so far, tech job losses have been less widespread than in other sectors — just one more reason why gender equality in tech is more important than ever. Getting more women into STEM education will have a positive impact on economic growth in the EU.

How to Solve the Tech Gender Gap and Get More Women in Tech

Solving the gender imbalance in technology professions will need support from all stakeholders — governments, the education system, unions — and employers. They can in fact have a positive influence at all life stages of females as they consider STEM for studying and as a career path. Stakeholders should:

  • Encourage girls and young women into a STEM education path
  • Support the development of programs that integrate technology into other fields of study
  • Create mentoring schemes
  • Establish proactive programs to get women back into the organization after maternity leave

To learn more, read IDC’s Supporting Women in Closing Gender Gaps in Technology.

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