Covid-19 has created challenges for us all, but there is growing evidence that women have been impacted particularly hard.
TUC research has revealed the disproportionate social and economic impact on women, particularly when it comes to childcare. Data suggests that women have been picking up 75% more childcare duties and are 47% more likely to have permanently lost their job or resigned due to the pandemic.
It is an issue for every industry and is particularly pressing for real estate and other sectors with a low proportion of women. There has been a great deal of work within our industry to change the status quo, encouraging more women to pursue a career in property, but there is still a lot of work to do.
Before Covid-19 struck, we were heading in the right direction, albeit slowly. Now, the pandemic has deepened existing issues and there is a real risk we could see an exodus of talented women. The pandemic could reverse years of hard work if businesses fail to support women properly as they grapple with the challenges of working and meeting their family duties.
Women should not be forced to reduce their hours, request furlough, take unpaid leave or quit their jobs. There is so much businesses can do to prevent temporary career breaks, which have a habit of turning into permanent ones.
The first step is acknowledging the issues many women are still battling seven months into the pandemic, and that those difficulties are likely to persist for some time.
A supportive culture is essential; an employer can make all the difference by being understanding and allowing women to balance their work and family commitments as they see fit, not necessarily within a standard nine-to-five working day. Flexibility is key.
Rather than viewing flexibility as a burden for business, we should recognise the opportunity it offers. In a very short space of time, we have seen huge progress in adopting flexible working after many years of debate and hand-wringing.
Businesses have the tools to support women to strike a balance. Not only can we prevent an exodus of women from the industry, we can also make real estate a more attractive prospect.
Vivienne Clements is executive director of HBD