24 Jul 2020
By Lesley Laird, Director, Equate Scotland
The Covid-19 crisis is, rightly, the focus of Scotland’s labour market and policy making at the moment. We are all developing plans to get back to work and back to “normal”. However, before we jump back into the status quo, now is the time to consider what we do and do not need to return to. We do not need a return of normality which includes inflexible work places, exclusionary recruitment practices and a lack of training and work experience opportunities for women to build their skills. We do need to return to and create inclusive workplaces that not only open the doors to women but support all employees to flourish.
In the middle of a crisis, it is far too easy for efforts on equality and inclusion to be forgotten, but the Covid-19 crisis has put the spotlight on the inequalities that many employers are working hard to tackle. However, the impact of the ongoing pandemic is having different effects on men and women. Although women are far less likely to die from the virus, young people, women and low paid workers are worst impacted. New data from Autonomy, a think tank, showed that of the 3 million people in ‘high risk’ jobs, 77% of them are women.
We have seen women continue to take on disproportionate levels of caring responsibilities and women more likely to lose out as the labour market re-starts. Much of this is down to where women are working; in the UK, women are the majority of frontline workers (77%) and the majority of low paid workers (69%). And in STEM professions, women are still significantly under represented where just 24% of the total STEM workforce are women. It is vital that these significant impacts on women are taken into account as we ‘build back better’.
At Equate Scotland, we are the national expert organisation on women’s participation in science, technology, engineering maths (STEM) sectors. We work with SMEs, start-ups and multi-national employers to support their efforts to attract, recruit, retain and progress more women in these critical sectors. Our work to create inclusive and equal workplaces continues through the current circumstances and we have adjusted our work to meet employers needs including:
If we can get something good out of Covid-19 can it be that we all seize the opportunity to build back better in terms of equality and diversity – not just in STEM but in terms of wider industry, education and government. All have a unique opportunity to drive the long overdue and necessary societal and cultural change people wish to see.
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