How the Pandemic Escalated Gender Discrimination

I was mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed, when I came across a post — a barista wrote the name of a radical terrorist group on a customer’s cup based on how she was dressed. 


The recent #BlackLivesMatter movement is a saddening evidence that racial discrimination still exists in 2020. People from all walks of life face age, disability, sexual, and even parental status discrimination on a daily basis. One that has become more prominent during the COVID-19 crisis is gender discrimination. Research has shown that in this time of crisis, women are more adversely impacted than men.

Let’s put things into perspective.

Exerted Pressure on Work-life Balance

With women making up 70% of the total healthcare workers globally, the coronavirus has certainly exacerbated the need for frontliners and healthcare professionals that are often associated with women.

More cases means lesser family time.

Women are expected to juggle between work, looking after the children, and doing the house chores at the same time. No wonder the term queen bee is popularized, rather than king bees!

Wage Gap and Work Opportunities

In 2020, a report showed that for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns just 81 cents.

While we were definitely improving in minimising the wage gap, the pandemic has caused a halt in accelerating the progress. In order to survive, many businesses would not prioritise equality in wages and work opportunities but instead find means to stay afloat. 

Comparatively, this has left a woman's position in the labour market much more vulnerable as compared to a man’s because of the expected role a woman would take in the household. Evidently, single parents may be more adversely hit by the global recession.

PS: If you’re financially capable, you can support women in healthcare through the United Nations Women website.

Spike in Gender-based Violence

Everyone may agree on how we disliked the lockdown measures (at least initially) that stripped us of our teh tarik sessions and late night drives. It was imposed as a circuit breaker measure designed for our safety. However, for some, their homes were no longer safe as stress began to build up from the loss of jobs, financial insecurities, and this new way of life. Stay-at-home orders posed a safety risk as it meant they were more susceptible towards domestic abuse. 

UN Women reported that women in urban areas are twice as likely as men to experience violence particularly in developing countries. Since the commencement of the lockdown mid-March, the ministry’s hotline reported about a 50% increase in incoming calls regarding domestic abuse. The pandemic acted as a trigger of financial and emotional stress — and the wives and childrens fell as victims.

From various perspectives, women carry the heavier responsibility — be it at home, in healthcare, at school, or in caring for the elderly. Addressing the pre-existing inequality is not a distraction from the central issue. British actress Emma Watson, the appointed United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador said the following in her speech on feminism: "If not me, who? If not now, when?"

The gendered-impact of this virus should not be taken lightly. Echoing Emma Watson's quote, we must all play our part in bridging that inequality gap.

Let’s keep in mind that the pandemic may bring us down, but being united will lift us up.

Puteri Nelissa Milani is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business (Honours) Finance and Economics at Taylor's University. She is also a journalist for the independent student-run organisation Financial Literacy for Youths: Malaysia (FLY: Malaysia).