Women and ethnic minority individuals

COVID-19 and the asymmetric impact on careers and work-life balance of women and ethnic minority individuals

Women and ethnic minority individuals

Ruth Sealy, Deirdre Anderson, Johanne Grosvold & Siobhan Wray

Work and organizational psychology (WOP) science has many insights and much knowledge to offer employers and policy-makers on the ongoing impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on the careers and well-being of marginalised groups. In addition to the obvious devastating health consequences, a global and sustained secondary ‘pandemic’ is spreading, affecting people’s careers, employment prospects and work-life balance.  Though the economic impact of the pandemic is global in scope, it is asymmetric in nature, hitting women and ethnic minority employees hardest, through disproportionate losses of jobs, income, career prospects and financial security.  The number of women registered as economically inactive in many countries has hit record levels (ILO 2021, ONS 2020).  Women have felt forced to leave their professional careers to manage the challenges of prolonged home-schooling and childcare, with the associated impact this has on career progression and senior leadership ambitions in the long term. Those that have maintained their jobs have found work-life boundaries disintegrate. The pandemic has led to marked deterioration of mental health and wellbeing, again with women and the ethnic minority community disproportionately impacted.

The overarching focus of this work brings WOP data exploring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the careers, wellbeing and work-life balance of women and ethnic minority individuals to practitioners and policymakers to help inform evidence-based agendas going forward. Building on evidence of good practice learnt from the pandemic, WOP data must be used to influence conversations about how we address the institutional and structural factors that made women and ethnic minority communities so exposed and vulnerable during the pandemic.

WOP science can help identify individual-, family- and organizational-level factors that have impacted on work-related well-being, work-life balance, employee satisfaction, employee productivity, career self-efficacy and ambition. This knowledge then also contributes to and improves our understanding of the structural and institutional challenges and opportunities that we face in rebuilding the future of work for Europe and the UK as we learn to live with COVID-19.  

WOP research and practice has a critical contribution to make, with employers and policy-makers to shape and engage with organisational and institutional parameters to positively develop and improve the careers, lives and wellbeing of women and ethnic minorities, ensuring a springboard to build a more equitable and resilient economy as well as more inclusive and prosperous societies.