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11 May 2021

Essays on Equality – Covid-19: the road to a gender equal recovery

How can we achieve a feminist recovery to the pandemic?

EoE 2021 news story

Download the essay collection

Covid-19: the road to a gender equal recovery

Produced by the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, the latest edition of Essays on Equality, focuses on the gendered impacts of Covid-19 and, crucially, how we can begin to undo the damage caused by the pandemic in order to achieve a feminist recovery.

Download the collection and read GIWL Chair Julia Gillard's foreword to it below.


As lockdown restrictions are eased and vaccines are rolled out, it’s easy to think the end of the coronavirus crisis is just in sight. But as the head of the WHO Americas office recently warned, the pandemic is not only not over, it is accelerating. Indeed, while some countries are transitioning to a recovery phase, globally, Covid infections and deaths show little sign of abating, and many developing nations – such as India, the Philippines and Pakistan – are grappling with their most dangerous phase of the pandemic to date.

Yet whatever stage of the crisis countries are facing, it’s important to start thinking now about how societies can rebuild – and in a way that leaves no one behind. This includes women, who we know have been hardest hit by the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

For example, research carried out by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership in March found that female workers in the UK were more likely to be furloughed – meaning taken off the payroll and put on government employment support payments – for longer periods and to have worse projected financial security than their male counterparts.

And at this pivotal moment, the issue of whose voices are heard, and which expertise is listened to, is of vital importance – yet our research from October of last year found that female voices and expertise have been marginalised in media reporting of the crisis. Women made up just 5 per cent of STEM experts cited in media coverage of the pandemic, meaning for every mention of a prominent female STEM expert in a news story about coronavirus, there were 19 mentions of their male counterparts. Similarly, only a third of those quoted in articles about the pandemic were women.

If we’re to have any chance of ensuring women don’t lose out further because of the crisis, we need to keep the issue of gender inequality high on the agenda and ensure that women’s voices are at the forefront of conversations about the Covid response and how we build back. To that end, the essays in this collection highlight not only the gendered impacts of Covid-19, but also how we can begin to undo the damage caused by the pandemic in order to achieve a feminist recovery. Over a year on from when this crisis began for most of the world, we know a great deal more about this virus, its impacts, and what needs to be done to mitigate them. Key to this has been the work of researchers who have generated vital data about the pandemic, including its differential impacts on women. We’ll need more of this data and evidence – and, crucially, for governments and decision-makers to act on it – as we embark on the recovery. We’ll also need optimism and resilience. Nothing is set in stone, and with the pandemic shining a light on issues that have long been pressing concerns for women – from childcare and inflexible working arrangements, to domestic violence and the under-appreciation of female-dominated professions – there’s a chance to harness this attention and create the gender-equal world we all want to see. We just have to work for it.

I hope you find these essays enlightening and informative. If you’d like to pick up any of the themes here, or have any other thoughts, please do get in touch with the GIWL team:

Julia Gillard