Pandemic Set Women’s Progress in the Workplace Back Years, New PwC Report Reveals

COVID-19 isn’t just creating financial hardship and increasing unemployment levels for women in the workforce. A new report from PwC (a Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Hall of Fame company) has revealed that the pandemic is also pushing progress towards gender equality in the workplace back by years — to 2017 levels according to the group’s estimates.

The PwC report analyzed women’s economic empowerment across 33 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s annual Women in Work index. The index measures women’s participation in the labor market and equality according to a weighted average in five categories. 

CNBC’s Vicky McKeever reported that “PwC applied OECD forecasts of the unemployment rate and labor force size for 2019, which was latest data available, to its Women in Work index results in order to gauge the potential impact on these countries in 2020-22. It found that the gender equality index is expected to fall 2 points between 2019 and 2021, below the overall average score of 62 points in 2017.”

Based on that data, PwC researchers have also estimated that renewed efforts for gender equality would need to occur twice as fast in the coming years as they did over the past decade in order to undo the pandemic’s damage to women’s position in the workplace by 2030. 

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said that research showed there was “absolutely no time to lose in addressing the very real impact of the pandemic on women.” 

“[Women leaving the workforce] not only reverses progress towards gender equality, it also affects economic growth,” added Larice Stielow, a senior economist at PwC.

“In its ranking of the 33 countries analyzed in the report, based on the 2019 data, PwC found Iceland and Sweden retained their place as the top performing countries for women’s progress in the workplace,” McKeever reported. “New Zealand moved into third place, thanks to progress in closing its gender pay gap and an increase in the number of its full-time female employees.”


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