Gender Spotlight Amidst COVID-19

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different…We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” - Arundhati Roy, author

Amidst tighter social distancing measures to ward off a ‘fourth wave’ of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, we hope everyone is staying positive and taking reasonable precautions while still living fully. We wanted to highlight three positive developments for gender equality from around the world:

New Zealand re-examines compensation for ‘women’s work’: COVID-19 has made the world recognise and reassess ‘women’s work’. Occupations that have historically been extremely undervalued, including caring responsibilities, cleaning work, food provision, and roles involving significant amounts of ‘emotional labour’, that are all disproportionately carried out by women, are now increasingly seen as essential. New Zealand has gone a step further to fairly compensate roles that are largely held by women. Rather than equal pay for equal work, amendments to its Equal Pay Act demand equal pay for work of equal value. This landmark amendment accepts that in some industries, wages are lower because the work was mainly carried out by women and this is discriminatory. The amendment demands a long overdue examination of the value of women-dominated occupations and offers hope for tackling the gender pay gap.

Gender equal partnership behind the COVID-19 vaccine: In Germany, two scientists who developed the first COVID-19 vaccine exemplify a very successful gender equal partnership, in business and in their personal life. Professor Sahin and Dr Türeci are CEO and CMO, respectively, and co-founders of the firm BioNTech as well as being a husband and wife team who share in the equal care of their teenage daughter. Gender equality runs all the way through their company as more than half of the firm’s employees are women.

Proliferation of female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong: Close to home, a recent survey found that one in three women in Hong Kong plan to start a business and a quarter have already launched one. This upward trend may bear no relation to COVID-19 or it may be directly as a result of it and the inordinate disruption to women’s careers across different sectors. While women represent less than 14% of board members in Hong Kong, they make up around 45% of entrepreneurs in our city and, through their own businesses they’re able to challenge the status quo and create gender equal businesses and workplaces. To support these women to succeed, TWF continues to be committed to helping equip female entrepreneurs with the skills and networks they need through our #SheMeansBusiness partnership with Facebook. 

At TWF, we have detailed many of the shifts – both positive and negative – in the gender equality space since the start of the pandemic. Let’s continue to recognise these shifts, acknowledge challenges –new and old, and adapt our focus to fuel change for a gender equal and inclusive Hong Kong.

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The Women's Foundation