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Supporting women in business through the pandemic and beyond

Women have historically faced challenges in the workplace, particularly when it comes to leadership roles, promotions, male-dominated industries and balancing work with child raising, but Covid-19 has had an unparalleled impact on women and specifically, those of colour and those with disabilities.

According to Statistics NZ, in the June quarter with the first lot of job losses due to Covid-19, 10,000 of the 11,000 jobs lost belonged to women – that is almost 91%.

"It's not just women, it's women over the age of 50, Māori and Pasifika women, and we need to take those lenses into our specific Government policy and support to make sure that people are supported during this time,” said Women’s Minister, Julie Ann Genter.

Female-dominated sectors in New Zealand including hospitality, retail, tourism, domestic care and cleaning were severely impacted by the pandemic, with the demand for those jobs drying up and an inability for them to be performed at home like many office-based jobs.

87% of female business owners said they have been negatively affected by the pandemic and many new female-led business ventures have been put on hold.

McKinsey & Company and LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace 2020 report which studies women in corporate roles in America, states that one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or scaling back their careers because of the pandemic.

Work in the time of Covid-19 is pushing women out because of a lack of flexibility, overlapping caregiving responsibilities, the feeling of needing to always be available to work and a fear of judgement that looking after children is getting in the way of their job. Many women work a ‘double shift’ because of the disproportionate amount of housework and childcare they do after their main employment.

In the report, 72% of fathers thought they split household labour equally with their partner during Covid-19, while only 44% of mothers felt the same. 76% of mothers with children under 10 years old said childcare was one of their main three challenges during the pandemic, compared to 54% of fathers.

The prospect of losing women in senior positions is concerning, as there are many noted benefits of having female leaders in the workplace. Companies with high proportions of women leaders are 50% more likely to outperform their competitors and report higher return on equity, return on sales and return on invested capital.

Senior women are more likely to mentor other women, and champion gender and racial equality at work, and women also offer fresh perspectives while being effective leaders and positive role models.

According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2020, New Zealand ranked fourth in the world for its support of female business owners entrepreneurs. However, New Zealand is still one of the lowest ranked countries in terms of women in senior leadership positions within companies – and this is despite companies with more female leaders being considered the best employers .

Having more women leaders is linked to more satisfied customers, better staff retention and increased profit.

There is plenty of work to be done in terms of supporting women in the workplace and helping them re-enter jobs after the redundancies of the pandemic, but if diversity and inclusion are prioritised then everyone – employees and employers alike – will reap the rewards.

At SaaSam we are proud that 50% of our staff are female, with women making up the majority of our executive and management positions. Our founder and CEO, Heather McEwen, is a keen advocate of women in the IT industry and has overcome adversity herself due to being a disabled female. 


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