The last year has been harsher for women all around the world than it was for men. Considering the wage gap, the unpaid work around the house and childcare, and the fact that many of them work in the service industry – 2020, in its essence, was not in women’s favor, and the challenges were (and still are) countless.

However, women’s flexibility and adaptability came in handy – through utilizing the existing technological tools and identifying the emerging needs, many have channeled their abilities into regaining control over their lives, making ends meet, and often even giving back to their communities.

How has the last year affected women, and how did they manage to overcome the devastating effects of COVID-19 – and all the while, reshape entrepreneurship in ways that will impact future generations?

 

Lay of the Land

While science showed that COVID-19 has been affecting men more severely, women are still disproportionally affected by health emergencies, and are burdened with economic and social aspects. Over the past year, we’ve witnessed a concerning rise in domestic violence against women globally, or as the UN called it: “The Shadow Pandemic”. At the same time, there was a significant depletion in academic publications and achievements, in comparison to their male counterparts.

The global pandemic created a unique situation for women: not only did many lose their jobs, especially in service-related industries, but also, as women dominate the caregiving job categories globally (70%, according to the UNWomen), they were and are standing directly on the front lines of healthcare.

Women who lost their jobs had to come up with new ideas to thrive, financially speaking. The types of businesses on popular e-commerce platforms changed dramatically – from selling furniture and crafts to homemade food and online lessons. This shift in business thinking is very much here to stay: the pandemic is still going on, and currently, there are very minimal formal regulations on these types of businesses.

A good example for this agility comes from the UK, where reportedly, there has been a major shift in consumer behavior in the print sector, specifically in personalized stationery: if pre-pandemic the split between the genders was about 50-50, now 3 out of every 4 orders are coming from women. In other words, many women are using this opportunity for creating and launching a brand for the very first time.

 

Women Leadership in 2021: Breaking through the Clouds

Many articles and studies have been recognizing the significant impact that female leaders around the world have made while dealing with the pandemic.

Consequently, a new question arose: is it time for men to step down and make room for more women to lead? Arush Lal, a board vice-chair at Women Global Health (WGH) said to Medical News Story – this question is completely missing the point: “The right question is whether societies that elect women leaders are perhaps better primed, and what that says about our responsibility as populations to improve the way we work with each other and, hopefully, improve gender equity at the highest levels”.

Irene Torres, Ph.D., a health promotion researcher who’s focusing on gender and public health in COVID-19, told the same publication: “Women are not automatically gender-inclusive advocates, nor are men inevitably gender-exclusive. We cannot only focus on whether women are better or should be better than men. Instead, we should focus on who is making these decisions and why”.

Perhaps the question that should be asked is: “Will we actually see more women trying and getting to positions of power?”. The answer to this question might as well be “yes”, leadership is gender-dependent, and more societies are becoming open to this idea – but in women’s case, the support of their communities is key.

 

The Future of Women in the Workplace and in  Entrepreneurship

So how would the world look like for women in the job market after the global health crisis is finally behind us?

The future is seemingly very bright for women and young girls, now that remote work is more popular than ever. With predictions that the global economy will get back to its normal growth by the end of this year, we should be able to see a surge in hiring – fueled with a new perspective. The former prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, told the New York Times that we should expect a global “war” on the best talent: “Both male and female talent will be attracted to the most agile and fair workplaces. I’m not just talking about attracting the talent that lives near enough to the office to commute when necessary”.

Besides an increase in location-independent opportunities, it’s likely that more women will now pursue positions and fields which they were insecure about exploring before – thanks to using their time at home for self-development and improvement. Mariya Gabriel, a Bulgarian politician who’s serving as the European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, told the Times: “I think actually more girls will be more confident in their digital competencies and skills and their desire to have a career in the field of science and technology”.

In terms of entrepreneurship, the future is also promising, although not without obstacles. In 2019, women of color accounted for 89% of the new businesses opened in the U.S. – so although the numbers may be hindered in 2020, women-led startups are here and making great progress in multiple areas.

 

2020 taught us that women now dream bigger and want better, and allow themselves to dare more – despite and even because of the challenges. In the next and final episode of this series, we will examine the remaining issues and what is being done to overcome them.