The lockdown is turning back the clock on women’s lives in Britain

Date Posted: Tuesday 30th June 2020

SIR – We are concerned that the long-term impact on women is being overlooked in the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

We don’t deny that men have been affected disproportionately by the virus itself, but evidence shows that the damage done to women in Britain during the pandemic could last for years – and set them back decades.

New research by the Fawcett Society and the Women’s Budget Group has already found that the response to the pandemic has had a disproportionately negative effect on women in all sectors and age groups.

According to the Resolution Foundation, women are more likely than men to be working in sectors that have shut down during the pandemic. Mothers are almost 50 per cent more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit, research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown.

One in four women who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the pandemic have experienced unfair treatment at work – singled out for redundancy or furlough. Women are also more likely to be caring for an elderly relative, according to Carers UK. More working mothers are having to take unpaid leave or voluntary furlough in order to care for family members during lockdown.

The death rate for Covid-19 in black, Asian and minority ethnic women is up to twice as high as for white men.

Lockdown will long delay closing the gender pay gap. Women are losing out on income and pension contribution. But it’s not only financial hardship. During lockdown, demand for Refuge’s national domestic abuse helpline has risen by 66 per cent.

Sportswomen, too, face an uncertain future. The last women’s team sport fixture in this country was on March 14. Yet all the focus has been on male-dominated sports.

The lockdown is turning back the clock on women’s lives in Britain. We call on the Government to take action to halt this reversal.

We are asking the Government to pledge that, when lockdown policy decisions are being taken, there is meaningful representation of women and that the impact of policy on women’s lives is always fully assessed.

Dame Helena Morrissey
Baroness Bakewell (Lab)
Jane Shepherdson

Chair, My Wardrobe HQ
Mary Portas
Sonia Friedman OBE
Jude Kelly

Founder, The WOW Foundation
Baroness Altmann (Con)
Caroline Nokes MP (Con)

Chair, The Women and Equalities Select Committee
Nicola Mendelsohn 
Vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook
Baroness Morgan of Cotes (Con)
Brenda Trenowden

Global co-chairman, 30% Club
Ann Francke
CEO, The Chartered Management Institute (CMI)
Justine Roberts
Founder, Mumsnet
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
Ama Agbeze
Denise Lewis
Gabby Logan
Nimco Ali

Co-founder and CEO, The Five Foundation
Amber Rudd
Catherine McKinnell MP (Lab)

Chair of the Petitions Committee
Sam Smethers
Chief Executive, Fawcett Society
Mary-Ann Stephenson
Director, Women’s Budget Group
Dame Heather Rabbatts
Emma Hayes

Manager,  Chelsea Women’s Football Club
Judy Murray
Tracey Neville
Helen Pankhurst
Harriett Baldwin MP (Con)
Clive Betts MP (Lab)

Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee
Ben Beadle
Chief Executive, The National Residential Landlords Association
Tamara Gillan
Founder, WealthiHer
Barry O’Dwyer
Chief Executive, Royal London
Sian Fisher 
Chief Executive, Chartered Insurance Institute
Caroline Abrahams
Charity Director, Age UK
Christine Armstrong
Laura Bates

Founder, EveryDay Sexism
Rosalind Bragg
Director, Maternity Action
Joeli Brearley
Founder and CEO, Pregnant then Screwed
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu
Cherie Blair QC
Pinky Lilani

Founder, Women of the Future
Jo Fairley
Co-founder, Green & Black’s
Bianca Miller-Cole
Jessica Fellowes
Serena Guthrie
Alice Liveing

Author, The Body Bible and Everyday Fitness
Jacqui Oatley
Frances O’Grady

General Secretary, The Trades Union Congress
Siobhain McDonagh MP (Lab)
Barbara Keeley MP (Lab)
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs

Chief Executive, Surviving Economic Abuse
Polly Neate
Chief Executive, Shelter
Helen Walker
Chief Executive, Carers UK
Jane Keeper
Director of Operations, Refuge
Nicki Norman
Acting CEO, Women’s Aid
Jane van Zyl
Chief Executive, Working Families
Andrew Formica
CEO, Jupiter Asset Management
Peter Harrison
CEO, Schroders
Moira O’Neill
Head of Personal Finance, Interactive Investor
Lisa Wainwright
Chief Executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance
Nathan Bostock
CEO, Santander UK
Carol Knight
Chief Operations Officer, The Investing and Savings Alliance