Who runs the post-Covid world? Right now, not Girls. (Give or take Angela Merkle, Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon, who don’t seem to be doing too bad a job of it).
But for majority of Girls, there’s no doubt it’s been a hard pandemic.
While men have seen their health deteriorate faster, women have seen their careers deteriorate faster - and with it their financial stability and independence.
Mothers are one-and-a-half times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since the lockdown began, according to figures from the IFS. Those still working found they also still bore the brunt of childcare, chores, and home schooling. Fathers were found to get twice as many uninterrupted working hours as mothers, while a study from the University of Sussex found 70% of mothers reported being completely or mostly responsible for home schooling, and 67% of working women felt like the “default” parent most or all of the time. Half of pregnant women and mothers thought coronavirus would negatively affect their careers.
From a health perspective and as a direct result of all of the above, more women are reporting higher levels of stress, getting less sleep than men, and struggling to prioritise their own health.
For a lot of us, this comes as no surprise. Speaking as someone with two small children at home, and with both a very supportive partner and a very supportive employer, I can safely say it’s still been one of the toughest 6 months of my life.
As some businesses prepare to return to the office, the Chartered Management Institute has warned that “blended working” could result in a two-tier system where women without sufficient childcare to return to the office are left out of key decisions.
For many women, starting their own business is a way of taking charge of their own destiny - and just getting to be in charge full stop. They can set their own hours and their own rules – and they can change them. They can change the GAME. And despite the current challenges for small businesses and start-ups, coronavirus has made lots MORE women think about what their priorities are, what their passions are, and how to make that a) pay and b) fit into their lives.
So how do we help women?
How do we help workplaces work better for them, how do we help them start businesses and lead companies? Now more than ever?
There are no easy answers to gender inequality. But recognising it is a start. And at Equipsme one other thing we’re proud to say we’re doing is going into a new partnership with a brilliant organisation called She can. She did. - the UK's first Benefits Programme for female entrepreneurs and freelancers in the UK.
1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is female and before the pandemic hit they made up the majority of the newly self-employed. She can. She did. will support those and any others who work for themselves.
Set up by entrepreneur Fiona Grayson at the age of just 25, it’s a community that specifically champions and supports female entrepreneurs - including services that now include Equipsme plans. We wanted to help women working for themselves to prioritise their health, because their health IS the health of both their business and their family. It’s precisely the reason our plans for the Self-employed exist – to give one (wo)man bands an affordable option to take charge of their own health, on their own timetable.
Along with Fiona, I believe there are opportunities for women in the midst and mire of Covid-19. Women like Angela, Jacinda and Nicola have led the way during the crisis with clarity and compassion – and women are needed to lead the way out of it, too.
The world is changing, communities are changing, and businesses are changing. Flexible and remote working have been normalised, for a start. There is an increasing focus on doing good, communicating well, and adding value – traditionally female skillsets. People are looking for new kinds of products and new kinds of services that work in our new kind of world.
And the very creativity, agility, energy and empathy that have seen women juggle the conflicting priorities of the last few months could be exactly what’s needed to problem solve the world for the next few years, and beyond.
So, if you’ve got a start-up, or one at the back of your mind, and you identify as a woman, you should definitely visit She can. She did. on Instagram or on their website at www.shecanshedid.com or listen in to the She Can. She did. podcast to hear Fiona in conversation with successful female entrepreneurs about how they did it - and how you could too.