Impact of pandemic on women at work

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zakladatelé Institutu interní komunikace


Impact of pandemic on women at work

The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the workplace in ways we’ve never seen before. No one is experiencing business as usual, but women are facing distinct challenges.

A group of researchers from Northwestern University published a paper that noted something different about this crisis already in its beginning phase. Typically, recessions hurt men’s employment more than women’s, the authors wrote, as male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing are often the first to slow down.

The Covid-19 recession, on the other hand, seemed almost designed to squash women’s employment. Lockdowns and social distancing rules took a heavy toll on service and hospitality jobs, where women form a large share of employees. Closing down the support systems, such as schools and day-cares, disabled many women with young children to work. Grandparents, friends and neighbours who might otherwise have helped are not available due to social distancing or simply out of fear.

These factors, that are ongoing and may stay for indefinite time, have the potential to push women out of the workforce massively. (Source:

A study in North Americas performed this year across 600 corporate businesses has brought an alarming confirmation of this trend:

One in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to Covid-19. (Source:

While we are in a different geography, our reality is similar.

These trends, unfavorable towards women in workplace, come during times when business in Czech Republic has acknowledged the importance of diversity at workplace and specifically also in leadership. Many businesses have invested into female talent and committed to equal pay efforts. The gap is however still present.

It is clear than when a dual-income family decides about one partner to stay and care for children, the height of the income will place a role. Considering the still existing pay gap, it is clear that the female partner will stay to care for dependents.


Why we need to focus on this topic now?

We are at risk of ERASING all of the progress we have made in the last decade for women in the workforce. Parents are in desperate need of support and adjusted structures, especially as the dynamics of varied restrictions unpredictable. Business is at the brink of losing valuable talent, unless radical actions are set in place.

Where do we want to start?

We are focusing on Czech workplaces.

  • We believe that being vocal around the challenges women in workplace experience and creating awareness is the first step
  • We believe in data – we want to create a study and find out about the situation in Czech business
  • We believe in collective wisdom – we’d like to create executive level workshops to come up with solution and document best practice for the benefit of all.
  • We do want to: challenge the norms and expectations of employers.
  • Become the trigger for companies to act so as to keep women in the workforce with sustainable, long-term practices.

What do we want to map in our study?

  • Are women in Czech business more impacted than men?
  • Are any specific groups of women disproportionally impacted? (e.g. mothers, women with disabilities, women foreigners, specific age group, etc.)
  • How many women consider downshifting their careers or leaving workplace due to the pandemic?
  • What are the key challenges? (mental health, burnout, context switching, combining care for dependents and work, etc.)
  • What role does the level of work play? (Are managers or VPs impacted more than team members?)
  • What would help women from the side of the employer to make their professional life sustainable?
  • What else could be done?
  • Is Czech business committed and ready to explore structural changes to retain female talent?

What do we not focus on in this initiative?

  • While we believe in the need to increase gender equality, we are focusing on a concrete element related to the needs of women in business during pandemic and the specific challenges – not on the wide topic of equality of women in Czech Republic as such. Hence, we are also not in competition with institutions who do
  • Creating unproductive pressure on any group involved: employers, employees, HR.

Signed: Dana Poul-Graf and Tomas Poucha, Co-founders of IIK


Illustrative quotes from North American Study

“There’s an assumption in a lot of families that the woman is the primary caregiver. Kids literally walk past their dads to go to their moms to ask for stuff. The pandemic has highlighted how disproportionately things fall on women.”



“Not only that, but I don’t have a sliver of time without a meeting from 8 AM until 6 PM every single day. There’s no buffer to get a glass of water, go to the bathroom, check on my child. I had a couple of days in the past two weeks where I barely saw my son for 15 minutes. Since Covid-19, I’ve really thought about whether I can have a long-term career at this company.”



“We are still expected to meet, if not exceed, all of our targets. The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t affected anything as far as what we’re required to get done. So far, we’ve been able to make our goals, but there is a lot of extra stress. They tell us, ‘You just need to figure it out.’ Delay is not an option.”


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