Women Matter Mexico 2022: Lights and shadows of the pandemic

| Report

This study analyzes the impact of COVID-19 on employed women in Mexico across multiple dimensions. The health crisis disproportionately affected the participation of women in the workforce, but positive trends emerged from the changes in working arrangements that companies made in response to COVID-19.

The study showcases how the pandemic-related collapse in the labor market was more serious for women than for men. Of the 1.7 million people who left the labor market in Mexico between the first quarter of 2020 and the same period of 2021, 84 percent were women. In addition, men’s participation in the labor market recovered twice as fast as that of women. The most affected group was women with children. For example, in the first year of the pandemic, 90 percent of the women who left the workforce had children.

Another repercussion of the pandemic—and one of the most important—was the disproportionate increase women experienced in the domestic workload. Forty percent of the women with children who participated in the survey describe themselves as entirely in charge of their household’s housework and child care; only 6 percent of men with children say the same. This imbalance intensified when the COVID-19 crisis led to an increase in the demand for care, a decrease in the supply of domestic support services, and the closure of schools and day care centers.

Our research explored the imbalance’s impact on mental health, the demands of remote work, and the different experiences of people with and without children. For example, even though all employees surveyed report high levels of stress, women who remained in the workforce—especially those with children—report significantly higher rates of worry, burnout, and anxiety than men. In fact, the highest burnout rates of all respondents are for women in senior positions, such as senior vice presidents (58 percent), vice presidents (54 percent), and senior managers (50 percent).

The increased household burden and high levels of stress caused by the pandemic affected women’s career prospects to a greater extent than men’s. In the survey, almost twice as many women as men indicate that they considered pausing their careers because of the pandemic (exhibit). Also, more women than men say they considered taking a temporary leave of absence or slowing down their careers.

Women in Mexico were more likely than men to consider pausing or decelerating their careers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study reviews corporations’ responses to COVID-19 to find potential lessons, such as to monitor employees’ mental health, and points to gaps between companies’ claims and workers’ perceptions. Although 82 percent of companies report that they implemented some initiative to monitor the mental health of their employees, only 48 percent of employees say their organization adopted at least one measure in this regard. This suggests room for companies to review and improve the effectiveness of their communication. A relevant point is that the companies that applied more initiatives to counteract the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on mental health are also the most advanced in gender issues.

Besides giving rise to concerns about gender parity and mental health, companies’ pandemic-imposed changes contributed to some positive trends in the labor market. For example, the rapid adoption of remote work has increased connectivity and communication among employees, bringing managers closer to teams they previously didn’t interact with face-to-face. Organizations learned to be flexible and applied objective evaluation schemes based on results. In addition, more holistic and people-centered leadership styles emerged.

The study focuses on three changes that occurred because of the pandemic and that can drive gender parity: a greater general awareness of the domestic burden; an increase in men’s participation in housework and child care; and an accelerated introduction of flexible work arrangements by employers. Finally, it proposes five specific actions, related to flexibility, evaluation, and communication, that companies can implement to reinforce these changes and adapt management processes to new forms of work.

By designing different working conditions, companies can improve the attraction, retention, promotion, and motivation of talent, particularly women, while gaining efficiencies and control for the company. The benefits will be for everyone and will prepare companies to capture the gender-parity bonus more rapidly than before.

Read the full report here.

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