Women’s careers in the time of coronavirus

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Conversation

21 June 2020

Over the course of 2020, Covid-19 has been transforming the world in ways that we cannot yet fully fathom. Family work-life balance was already increasingly challenged with occupational burn-out and over-reliance on digital devices. A growing focus on “wellness” as the panacea to all of this work intensification has led critics like Carl Cederström and André Spicer to underscore the ways in which such a “wellness syndrome” commands more work – and guilt – out of already-overworked individuals. That’s why the slowdown imposed by the pandemic has been in some ways welcomed by working parents.

We are just now beginning to reckon with what the pandemic has meant to families and careers. Three decades after Arlie Hochschild documented the working mothers’ “second shift”, the pandemic has further amplified preexisting gender gaps, and much of the burden is still being borne by women.

Beyond struggling to maintain the family’s physical and mental health during lockdown, there is also the struggle of holding down a job. Epidemics spell trouble for all of us, but women can often be hit in ways that have nothing to do with the disease itself: In 2005 the UN Women’s commission reported the disastrous effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic for women’s and girl’s rights in developing nations. Socio-historical studies have illuminated a gendered “duty to care” ethos that fell squarely on women’s shoulders during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. This period of history is no different: commentators note that we are again witnessing the silent erosion of women’s rights as gendered roles are reinforced by the pandemic.