The Impact of the Pandemic on Female Board Representation

There has been much gained in the fight for women’s rights in the workplace in recent years, however it is well understood that the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on women could set back progress in this area significantly, particularly in relation to female representation on boards.  In the wake of International Women’s Day on Monday 8th March, we look more closely at the impact of the pandemic on the female workforce.

A report by global consultancy firm Deloitte, revealed that 82% of women surveyed said their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic with 70% of these women concerned that their career growth would be negatively impacted as a result.   Cranfield University’s Female FTSE Board Report highlighted the need for organisations to proactively address the long-term effects of the current pandemic on the pipeline of female talent, by taking tangible actions to counter the disproportionate impact the lockdown has had on women’s careers.

Another study entitled ‘Life under lockdown: Report on the impact of COVID-19 on professional women’s unpaid work’ indicated that ‘professional women in the 36 to 45 age group are burned out as a consequence of the significant increase in their unpaid work’, particularly in relation to those with schooling/nursing and caregiving responsibilities

All the evidence suggests that the impact of the pandemic has left many working women feeling burnt out, unsupported, and undervalued.

With Cranfield’s Female FTSE Board Report showing that whilst the percentage of female non-executive directors (NEDs) in the FTSE 100 is at an all-time high of 40.8%, there continue to be few women appointed to senior roles.  It is clear that there is still a long way to go in achieving better gender balance on boards, and reaping the rewards of an diverse and inclusive workforce.

What can be done to redress this balance?  Mentoring programmes with senior female figures, flexible working patterns for all staff, parental leave, and organisational cultures that support diversity, equity and inclusion are all aspects that can make a difference.  By supporting women through these latter stages of the pandemic, the benefits are there for all to see.

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