The last International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020—one year ago—seems distant today. Most of the world had not entered lockdown, and only three days later, the WHO would declare COVID-19 a pandemic. Then everything changed and the world has faced unyielding challenge and hardship since.
The pandemic hasn’t spared many. Everyone has been affected somehow. But that is especially true for women, whom according to a report by UN Women (PDF 423 KB), are bearing more of the unpaid workload than men. With everyone at home, it is women who are spending the bulk of time teaching children, providing care for the elderly and handling more domestic chores. Increasingly, it looks like many of the gains women have made in the workforce over the past years and decades are being undone by the pandemic—in months.
Thankfully, according to a study we conducted at KPMG, more than 40% of the female business leaders (PDF 332 KB) do not believe that gains lost recently will be made permanent. But that still leaves a majority who think otherwise or are undecided. On a list of many concerns, including climate change, income inequality and racial injustice, how we make sure that gender equality remains a priority as we rebuild our society and communities must be addressed.
During the pandemic, change has happened at speeds that were once impossible. Leadership is learning more about their people and organizations. And many workforces are more connected than ever, even if they are all at home—an unintended irony taught by the power of technology.
The moment has created a window of limitless creativity and resilience, and an opening to reimagine how, where and why people do their work. It’s in part, why corporates have rallied behind ESG—making the problems of today part of boardroom conversations across the world. Right now, businesses are looking to refocus their business models and organizations to adapt to the (harsh) realities of today and be part of the underlying solutions. That’s promising. And because of it, I am more optimistic that even though the past year will leave a great scar on history, it will also propel progress forward. For women. For inequality. And for social justice.
In many ways, because of this pandemic our chance is now. There has never been a moment like this, and there may never be another. Progress on gender equality has been agonizingly slow, even when it makes so much sense, even when it is the right thing to do—in business, in government, in our communities, in all parts of our lives.
And there’s a lot to do—a fact brought home to me after speaking with Eliane Momesso, a colleague of mine in KPMG’s Brazilian firm, who was working with the NGO community there. By simply asking how KPMG can help, Eliane’s team set out a plan for five main areas where we could assist. This included, among other things, the delivery of almost 52 tons of food and 35,000 hygiene items to directly help nearly 15,000 people.
But if we want a better world, we must build it—like Eliane. That’s why it’s up to all of us working together. To forge our confidence because we know what is right, and to empower change because we know what we want.
Thank you to all women for being who you are and doing what you do. On this International Women’s Day, KPMG proudly stands with you and will help build the future we all want. #ChoosetoChallenge.