Why COVID-19 is doing such a good job of highlighting gender disparities

Have you ever heard someone you know or a public figure say that gender inequality does not exist? How did it make you feel to hear that?

In today's society, there are people who do not acknowledge the limitations someone's gender can have on their socioeconomic and health status. In this post, I would like for us to open the doors to a respectful discussion, to reflect on this statement and its effect on women's mental health.

We have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic though different ways this year. Some of us experienced bigger life stressors than others, and some of us had access to more coping resources than others. The World Health Organization believes that gender controls the differences in power men and women have over the socioeconomic determinants of health, and susceptibility to specific diseases. Mental health illnesses are considerably associated with interconnected risk factors such as gender based roles, stressors, negative life experiences and events (World Health Organization, 2020). So, let's talk about how COVID-19 impacted women's professional lives, and their mental health.

In my opinion, the pandemic re-enforced some of the socioeconomic barriers women have been experiencing in their daily lives. A report from Royal Bank of Canada Economics showed that 1.5 million women in Canada lost their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic. In April, women's participation in the Canadian workforce decreased to 55%, a level that was last seen in May 1986 in Canada (Royal Bank of Canada, 2020). The CEO of Toronto Financial International firm, says that the high rates of female unemployment is because women are highly represented in service jobs, such as restaurants, hotels and retail (Stroh, 2020). But unfortunately, similar observations have been noticed in women working in academia (Viglione, 2020). An ecologist at the University of Toronto conducted a research analysis to investigate the difference between female author and male author publications during the pandemic. Research shows that female academics have been publishing less articles and starting fewer research projects than their male colleagues (Viglione, 2020). Furthermore, female professors were more likely to receive negative course evaluation feedback from students, in comparison to male professors. It has been observed that female academics have been taking up increased childcare responsibilities, and have been falling behind their male peers at work. Research done in the field of sociology at Santa Clara University in California suggests that male academics are more likely to have a female partner who does not work outside home, and she is responsible for most household chores (Viglione, 2020). Female academics are more likely to have a partner who is also an academic, but studies show that in dual-academic households, women still perform more household labor than men do (Viglione, 2020).

As a writer, I would like to apologize for the professions that were excluded in this article. But I think that from some of the information provided, we can still learn about women's work experiences during the pandemic. We can observe some barriers that women face in their professional productivity that their male peers do not experience. These systematic barriers are based on traditional female roles and can act as stressors that impact a woman's mental health (World Health Organization, 2020). These barriers resonate with the research done at Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto showing that women have been experiencing more depression, anxiety, loneliness and episodes of heavy drinking, than males during the pandemic. Additionally, only one out of five women have been seeking professional help for mental health concerns during the pandemic (Center of Addiction and Mental Health, 2020).

The pandemic threatens to wipe out decades of progress for working females. Whether you identify as a female or not, and have been experiencing other personal challenges during the pandemic, I hope this post helped you reflect on the systematic barriers women have been experiencing, and makes you think twice when you hear someone say that gender inequalities do not exist.

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