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The impact of Covid-19 on female professionals

28 July 2021 Maritsa Doyle, Wealth Manager at PPS Wealth Advisory

The repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt by all. As much as one must acknowledge the immense impact on all and sundry, some of the hardest-hit must be women, and especially female professionals.

The recent research by the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) painted a grim picture of the impact the virus has had on women within the first month of national lockdown. Although women occupied about 47% of employment in February 2020, they accounted for approximately 67% of the job losses between February and April 2020, and the number remained unchanged by June 2020. Thus, of the three million jobs lost in this period, approximately two million were held by women.

Although the subsequent NIDS-CRAM-reports showed that this has stabilised, there still no end in sight in terms of the pandemic, there is no question that the pressure on female professionals remains. As we celebrate Women's Month, this got me thinking about professional women and the difficulties we experience during these challenging times.

Burnout is real
The COVID-19 pandemic has set back women and their seats at the corporate table in two respects. Women are struggling to juggle their lives and strive for some semblance of balance. According to PwC’s Women in Work Index 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a “secession” in many companies.

The index, which measures female economic empowerment across 33 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, shows that “the damage from COVID-19 and government response and recovery policies, is disproportionately being felt by women”. PwC’s researchers predict that to undo the damage caused by COVID-19 to women in work – even by 2030 – progress towards gender equality needs to be twice as fast as its historical rate.

“Women carry a heavier burden than men of unpaid care and domestic work. This has increased during the pandemic, and it is limiting women's time and options to contribute to the economy. In the labour market, more women work in hard-hit human contact-intensive service sectors – such as accommodation and food services, and retail trade. With social distancing and lockdowns, these sectors have seen unprecedented job losses,” says Bhushan Sethi, Joint Global Leader, People and Organisation at PwC.

Although this study does not include South Africa, I agree with PwC South Africa’s Chief Economist, Lullu Krugel’s statement that “there are similar patterns in South Africa… where the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted hundreds of thousands of women’s lives, as well as putting a damper on years of progress around gender equality.

As a woman working as a Wealth Manager in a male-dominated industry, is challenging, I know this all too well. The shift to remote work for women has been a significant change, as we attempt to balance our responsibilities around the virtual office, children’s needs, holding the household together and provide a lovely healthy meal on the table every night.

What to do
What keeps me sane is the way I have structured my life such that there is balance between work and home. I also prioritise “me time” when I switch off and focus on activities that make me happy.

Some key financial factors to keep in mind
To women contemplating resignation and aiming for a life with more peace and balance – I have the utmost respect. My cautionary would be to consider your financial plan in this contemplation by taking the following into account

• Retirement: Never take it for granted that your spouse is your Retirement Plan. In my experience, women need to remain in charge of their wealth and preserve their retirement savings accordingly.
• Will: Ensure that your Will is updated and in place so that your dependents are looked after, especially with regard as to who will look after your children when you and your husband are no longer here. If you do have minor children and would like to leave them a legacy, you can choose between a Testamentary Trust with a later age in mind or a Beneficiary Trust that will pay out at the age of 18.
• Insurance: Update your Life Insurance and your Disability and Critical Illness Cover, ensuring that the beneficiary is wisely chosen. If a minor child is a beneficiary on a Life policy and there is no provision for a Testamentary Trust or Beneficiary Trust in your Will, this could lead to the proceeds going to the Guardian. This is most likely not the outcome that you had in mind.
• Savings and Investments: When it comes to Discretionary Investments, planning and investing in a diversified portfolio is important. You need to spread your risk between different Investment vehicles, such as Property, Offshore Investments and Local Investments. It is never too late or too soon to start saving.

And then to those, like me, who want a seat at the table. If they do not give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. Out-source the things that are not that important (my friends always refer to me as the Outsource Queen) so that you can focus on what is important to you.

Benjamin Franklin once said that “if you want something done, ask a busy person”. Well then, who better than a woman living a balanced life amid keeping fit and healthy, being a good mother, a compassionate partner, running a home, and being career-driven through it all. We need more professional women in management positions, so during this Women’s Month, ladies, remember that behind every successful woman is herself.


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