New report shows that work puts women at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19

Unevenly affected by virus

A new report published by the BC Women's Heath Foundation (BCWHF), Pacific Blue Cross and economist doctor Marina Adshade shows that women are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 in British Columbia because of the type of jobs they work.

According to the study, over half of employed women in B.C. work in jobs that have high face-to-face interactions in the retail, education, health care, and accommodation/food services industries.  

"The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, but not equally. While no one is untouched by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected," Adshade tells Castanet in an email.

"The physical, mental, economic, and emotional consequences for women are, and will be, staggering, yet these realities will affect us all; our future generations, our organizations and our health-care system," she adds.

In a news release, the BC Women's Health Foundation says if systemic inequalities affecting the health of women are improved, $2 billion could be saved in lost work hours annually.

This socio-economic impact report also reveals the following important facts:

  • B.C. women were first to be impacted greatly by job losses and for longer periods of time. Women lost 60% more jobs than men in March 2020, increasing the effective unemployment rate of women in the province to 26.5% in March and 28% in April.
  • Working moms in the province, from age 24 to 55, lost 26% of their work hours in April, compared with 14% of work hours lost by working dads. Women attributed six times more of these lost work hours each week to family responsibilities than men. 

The report notes that industries where the percentage of men and women are equal in an industry sector, the roles that women fill cause them to have a higher risk of exposure. For example: a higher percentage of women occupy sales and cashier roles, whereas men occupy a higher percentage of sales manager roles in the retail industry.

"In times of intense difficulties, there is temptation to classify gender as a side issue, or something to tackle later once the 'real crisis' has been addressed," Adshade explains. 

"Women’s unique health needs persist and should not be overlooked by health-care approaches and pandemic recovery plans. Society has been turned upside down. Now is the time to redefine normal and the BCWHF is uniquely poised to be a part of the recovery."

The BCWHF and Pacific Blue Cross launched a social media campaign today called #WeSeeYou, in conjunction with this report to bring awareness to this gender inequality. 

All British Columbians are encouraged to participate by posting a photo to social media, wearing a mask. They can tag up to three women in their life in recognition of their strength through the pandemic.

To download the full report and to learn more about the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s health, click here.

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