Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

New UK data shows the impact of pandemic on women’s working lives

New data from LinkedIn reveals the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the professional lives of women in the UK

  • LinkedIn’s data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected female hiring, job confidence and stress levels 
  • Women were less likely to be hired than men during peak lockdown; hiring of women reached its lowest point in April at 41.5%
  • As the Government manages reopening schools, data underscores importance of flexible working policies to support women’s employment and career progression

New data from LinkedIn reveals the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the professional lives of women in the UK. The data shows that women were less likely to be hired during peak lockdown. Research also found that women are feeling less confident about their job and career prospects, and that working mums are more likely to be providing full-time childcare. 

Women less likely to be hired than men during lockdown

LinkedIn data finds that the hiring of women in the UK followed a U-shaped trajectory in 2020. Female hiring reached its lowest point in April when it fell to 41.5%, before recovering to 45.2% in July. In 2019, women accounted for 45.6% of hires in the UK. Women trying to find work in the Recreation and Travel industry faced significant turmoil; women accounted for 44.3% of the hires in the industry in 2019, but this fell as low as 31.1% in May of 2020.  

The data shows that female hiring in the UK improved as restrictions to contain the virus lifted and has now returned to levels seen before the pandemic. While this is positive, women started from a lower baseline and still need to make up for the loss of hires in April/May.

Women lack confidence in jobs and careers, and report higher stress and anxiety than men 

LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index shows that women are feeling significantly less confident about their future work prospects, in comparison to men, and working mums are bearing the brunt of additional childcare responsibilities. 

The data reveals that 27% of working mums said they were caring for their children by themselves, and 32% said they were providing full-time childcare, compared to just a fifth (19%) of men. Working dads are also more likely to alternate childcare duties within their household, with two-thirds (61%) of men doing this compared to just a third (34%) of women.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of women report feeling increased levels of stress or anxiety due to the pandemic, compared to less than half (48%) of men. Women are also 10% less confident in their ability to get or hold onto a job than men. Similarly, women are two thirds (67%) less confident in their ability to progress their career than men, and 133% less confident about their ability to improve their financial situation in the next 6 months.  

As the UK government manages school reopening policies, this data sheds light on the economic impact of lockdown measures on working women, who are more likely to be looking after children, and underscores the importance of flexible working policies from employers.

Janine Chamberlin, Director at LinkedIn, said: “LinkedIn data finds that women are facing greater hurdles when it comes to employment opportunities and career progression due to the global pandemic. Many women have had to juggle ever-increasing work commitments with heightened childcare and household responsibilities. The concern is that with greater demands on their time and higher levels of stress, working mothers may consider reducing their hours or leaving the workforce entirely. Employers have the opportunity to create more flexibility so that women do not have to choose between their children and their careers, and it is reassuring to see that this is top of mind for many business leaders today. Now is the time for organisations to consider flexible hours and remote working. These initiatives can go a long way in helping to retain women in the workforce.”

Lisa Pantelli, Communications Professional and mum of three said: “I can relate to mums who say they’re bearing the brunt of providing full-time childcare whilst juggling a job. Trying to balance a demanding full- time job with three children of different ages and needs has not been an easy task over the lockdown period, and there have been moments of pure chaos! Like many other working mothers out there I’ve been navigating my way through this unprecedented time as best as I know how – taking things day by day and leaning on my husband and immediate family for support. I am lucky to work for a company that truly understands and believes in the benefits of flexible working, and hope to see more companies adopt similar policies so that working parents are able to better manage, particularly as many begin to return to the office.”

Joeli Brearley, Founder of charity Pregnant Then Screwed, said: “The data from LinkedIn demonstrates the many challenges women are facing when it comes to employment and career progression due to the pandemic. Since the start of lockdown, our free legal advice lines have been ringing off the hook with pregnant women worried about their careers. Lockdown saw a number of mothers taking on the lion's share of caring duties and housework with many believing this has either impacted their career prospects or will certainly harm them in the future.”

Leanne Wood, Group Chief HR Officer at Vodafone, said: “Vodafone is committed to gender equality, and we’re proud of the progress we’re making through our policies that support diversity and inclusion. The COVID-19 crisis has further highlighted the importance of inclusion, engagement and flexibility for our people, and we have offered additional support for wellbeing and balancing caretaking responsibilities during this challenging time. As part of our plans for the future, we will open up Vodafone to new employees who might have been excluded in the past, by removing location where we can as a role requirement. We’re still hiring in most of our markets and welcoming applications in the UK, and we offer a supportive culture where individuals and teams can be themselves, and have the freedom to tailor the way they work to their own work styles and personal needs.”