Every day we see more women taking a seat at the table in the places historically reserved for men.
Yet, even before we consider how the last 18 months have taken their toll on the journey towards gender parity, it’s clear we still had a long way to go in terms of social equality and female representation in the workplace.
This is particularly the case in areas that have been traditionally dominated by men, such as in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industries. Before the pandemic, only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally were women.
There were also significant differences within STEM disciplines themselves, with only 3% of female students in higher education choosing information and communication technologies (ICT) studies.
As a technology company, we at Amadeus recognize that this gender disparity is alarming, especially as STEM careers are directly associated with jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Where has COVID-19 left us?
Where progress clearly needed to be made before 2020, evidence suggests that the onset of COVID‐19 has reversed many of the incremental gains of recent years.
According to World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, the length of time until women and men are truly equal has increased from 99.5 years to 135.6 years in the space of just twelve months.
Employment is an area where the worst impacts on equality have occurred, even in more developed nations.
When COVID‐19 began in early 2020, women held more jobs in the U.S. than men for the first time since 2010. One year later, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women lost one million more jobs than men, including all 156,000 job losses in December 2020.
While much of the drop in participation has been due to women’s jobs being in most pandemic‐hit sectors, many women were also forced out of the labor market to pick up care responsibilities during lockdowns.
According to the European Commission, lockdowns had a significant impact on unpaid care and work‐life balance, as women spent, on average, 62 hours per week caring for children (compared to 36 hours for men).
The harsh reality is that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities between women and men in almost all areas of life, rolling back on the hard‐won achievements of past years.
Focusing on our inclusive recovery
I’ve long lived by the idea that “what’s good for gender equality is good for the economy and society as well."
If we are to drive economic growth, and rebuild stronger and more equal, providing inclusive and supportive work environments where women can be successful despite the effects of COVID‐19 will be vital.
It’s clearly going to take a collective effort to bring about meaningful change, and we at Amadeus are working hard to play our part by placing gender equality front and center of our rebuild and future growth.
This involves continuing initiatives that have been in place to support women and girls for several years, as well as new programs designed to foster a supportive, inclusive and diverse workplace in the new world of work.
Internally, our central goal is to create an inclusive environment for all genders, ensuring that all employees have equal career opportunities. We are also taking greater steps to empower our female colleagues and help them progress to leadership positions across the business, and we have added two new female board members this year.
We have put measures in place to ensure we regularly review our selection processes for unconscious bias and ensure our job offers are gender‐neutral, as well as creating Amadeus Women’s Networks, which are employee‐led resource and support groups across our various offices.
To support the next generation of women and long‐term gender inclusivity, we work with Inspiring Girls, an organization that provides female professional role models in non traditional professions to 11‐15‐year‐old girls.
This allows young girls going through education to have the chance to meet with female leaders in science and technology job roles, helping to create pathways for women in STEM and ensure that the pool of talent for the workplace of tomorrow better reflects wider society.
The journey towards gender equality
We are at a critical moment on gender equality. 26 years after the UN’s landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, not a single country in the world can claim to have achieved it, while COVID‐19 has meant we have taken a step back.
While the future is still uncertain, it is imperative for society, and specifically employers, to fully understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on working women and to act urgently to alleviate them.
These issues are systemic and cannot be fixed overnight, but they require a consistent and determined approach to root out the barriers (both cultural and practical) that stand in the way of gender balance.