Since its outbreak, COVID-19 has not been kind to the job market as we all know. From salary cuts to massive layoffs, few have been spared. Professionally-speaking, women have had it even worse than men.
“By our calculation, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs,” consulting firm McKinsey explains. “Women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses. One reason for this greater effect on women is that the virus is significantly increasing the burden of unpaid care, which is disproportionately carried by women. This, among other factors, means that women’s employment is dropping faster than average, even accounting for the fact that women and men work in different sectors.”
Additionally, new data released by Linkedin shows that lockdown measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 led to a drastic drop in female hiring in April 2020, before recovering in June and July as restrictions were gradually lifted.
The COVID effect
The data shows that the hiring of women globally – across multiple industries – followed a U-shaped trajectory in 2020.
In the UAE, female hiring reached its lowest point in April when it fell to 31.3% and then recovered above the 2019 average by July 2020. The share of monthly female hires in the UAE saw an upward trajectory from May onward, reaching 35% in July 2020 and exceeding the 2019 average of 33.5%.
Globally too, female hiring reached a low in April, with women only accounting for 40.6% hires, before recovering in June and July to around 44.5%. As governments around the world manage school reopening policies, this data sheds light on the economic impact of lockdown measures on working women, who are more likely to be looking after children, and underscores the importance of flexible working policies.
The UAE is ranked 120th in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020, issued by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with LinkedIn, followed by Kuwait (122) and Tunisia (124). MENA labour markets are generally characterized by low female participation, the Index added.
The LinkedIn data also show that female hiring improved globally as restrictions lifted and that in most countries, female hires have now returned to levels seen before the pandemic. However, women started from a lower baseline in most countries, and need to make up for the loss of hires in March/April.
The need for flexible working
With more demands on their time and higher levels of stress, the risk of women leaving the workforce becomes greater and has the potential to put gender parity in the workplace at stake. Employers must be flexible and make accommodations to help women remain in employment.
Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist at LinkedIn, said: “In terms of gender, women are bearing the brunt of the global pandemic when it comes to employment opportunities and career progression. We’ve seen on LinkedIn that working mothers are struggling to balance ever-demanding workloads with increased childcare and household responsibilities and the concern is that many are considering reducing their working hours or retreating from the workforce as a result.
“Our ability to avoid more widespread, permanent losses in women’s employment hinges on schools reopening and employers creating more flexible work schedules. Without this, we’ll have a very real and serious risk of losing many women from the workforce. The unfortunate reality is that the longer that this goes on, the more women will have to make the impossible choice between caring for their children and their careers. And we know these losses won’t come back easily: women will have to work harder to re-enter once they’re able.”
The Middle East’s top businesswomen
Despite being known for its traditional and patriarchal society, the Middle East is actually home to many talented and top-performing businesswomen.
Every year, Forbes Middle East compiles a list of the regions’ “100 Power Businesswomen,” female entrepreneurs that shattered gender stereotypes and made a name for themselves in the business world.
In their 2020 list, Forbes ME listed a total of 23 nationalities represented across 28 sectors, noting that Emiratis were the most prevalent nationality with 23 entries. There are also nine Egyptians, eight Lebanese and eight Omani women. British women have the highest representation among non-Arabs, with seven entries.
The top 10 businesswomen in the region are as follows:
- Raja Easa Al Gurg, Managing Director, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, EMIRATI
- Renuka Jagtiani, CEO, Landmark Group, INDIAN
- Rania Nashar, CEO, Samba Financial Group, SAUDI
- Sarah Al Suhaimi, Chairperson & CEO, Tadawul & NCB Capital, SAUDI
- Lubna Olayan, Chairperson, SABB, SAUDI
- Heike Harmgart, Managing Director Southern & Eastern Mediterranean Region, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, GERMAN
- Nezha Hayat, CEO, Morocco’s Capital Market Authority, MOROCCAN
- Wadha Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Deputy CEO, Kuwait National Petroleum Company, KUWAITI
- Mona Yousuf Almoayyed, Managing Director, Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons, BAHRAINI
- Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General, Smart Dubai, EMIRATI