PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO TAKE GREATER TOLL ON WORKING WOMEN THAN MEN
Across every dimension – financial, mental, physical and social – women are feeling less healthy, according to forthcoming MetLife research
NEW YORK, March 16, 2021
The longer the pandemic drags on, the worse women in the workforce feel they are doing relative to men.
For example, last April during the initial wave of COVID-19, 68% of employed men felt their financial health was holding up reasonably well, compared with 60% of employed women. By this January, the gap had widened significantly – 69% of men felt healthy compared with only 53% of women.
This trend holds across mental, physical and social health as well. In every category, women in the workforce say they have experienced deterioration, while men in the workforce say they are holding steady or slightly improving.
These findings are part of MetLife’s forthcoming U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), which the company has produced every year since 2002. The data on the pandemic’s impact on women are being released today in connection with a major conference on women’s equality being hosted by the United Nations Global Compact. MetLife President and CEO Michel Khalaf is participating in a panel discussion on “Women’s Empowerment Principles: Foundations for Equality in Practice.”
“Across the board women feel that the pandemic is impacting them more negatively than men do,” Khalaf said. “This has clear implications for business leaders and employers. With the right policies and programs, we can improve women’s health holistically.”
When asked why they did not rate their financial health more highly, the biggest gap between working women and men occurred in two areas: Women did not feel they had adequate emergency funds (women, 33%; men, 23%), and they did not feel that they were paid enough for what they did (women, 30%; men, 21%).
On mental health, while men were more worried about losing their jobs, women expressed greater concern about loved ones contracting COVID-19 and, significantly, greater stress from reasons outside of work (women, 35%; men, 24%). This is not surprising in light of the greater family responsibilities women take on – and they are considerably less likely than men to believe that their employer grants the flexibility needed to maintain work-life balance (women, 55%; men, 64%).
Working women also said they felt a more negative impact than men in areas including physical health (lack of exercise, 50% vs. 43%), social health (effects of social distancing, 58% vs. 45%), and career development (42% vs. 37%).
“The first of the seven U.N. Women’s Empowerment Principles is ‘establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality,’” said Dr. Cindy Pace, MetLife’s Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. “One of the ways we support that goal is with timely research that exposes gender gaps and points toward solutions.”