As we all try to wade through the chaos brought on by Coronavirus, it has also given way to other sentiments that are less than desirable: gender inequality.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, there has been a large number of women who have been affected the most by it. Women who have jobs have had to cut back or leave their jobs in order to care for their children as a result of school closures. Service jobs that are held by women have had to endure work with less pay or no pay at all if they leave their job. The fallout from this outbreak not only affects women but their families.
Women from China, South Korea, and Japan have had to choose between working in spite of the outbreak or not working which takes away their pay and benefits. Recent statistics reported from an employment-oriented platform Zhipin, states that on average, women earn 84% less than men. That statistic takes into account the differences in industry, years of experience, and occupation. Since levels of education are used as benchmarks to garner one’s earnings, the pay gap is even less if women had earned a Ph.D. or Masters’s degree. The flip side of earning a decent living is not having the time to care for their children if the job requires long hours. While their contribution to the workforce is valuable in principle, the reality is far from it.
The age-old ideal of patriarchy is still alive and well in so many countries, but to see how it still controls women and their daily lives during this time is unbelievable. These women are willing to provide for their families but at what cost? It is unlikely that whether they keep working or not would make a difference since there are cultures who still see and treat women as burdens, not worthy of being cared for by their society.
What is just as unfathomable is that even if these women had jobs, they are still expected to take care of the children without help. It’s the notion that men bring home the paycheck and even if women did make money, it wasn’t seen as substantial enough to provide for their family. It’s not fair, but women who rely on a paycheck may back down from being assertive at their job, to ensure that they don’t get laid off or fired.
In this time of uncertainty, gender inequality should not be an added stressor or have such importance when it comes to providing for one’s family, but unfortunately, it is.
I’m not saying that every Asian culture discriminates against women, but there are people in these cultures who don’t value women or their contributions to their society. How are these women being protected by their country during a pandemic if their society doesn’t support their needs? How can women feel empowered if their culture still considers them as second class citizens?
Gender inequality is also present in the United States, not just in some Asian countries. While the treatment of women in the States is not as brutal as parts of Asia, it is just as palpable. Women in the States make less than men because they are perceived to be less committed to their jobs, especially if women have children. According to PayScale.com, in 2020 women earn 81 cents for every $1 earned by men. Men have been seen as being more productive than women due to their physical makeup or the perceived lack of commitment when it concerns childcare. In reality, women have been able to do the same jobs men can do in almost every occupation, regardless of their domestic situation.
They are faced with these notions even during a pandemic and it’s not going away anytime soon. So long as companies or society see women as less productive than men, women will have to keep fighting for their rights and risk their health until perceptions are changed. I do hope that it doesn’t take another natural disaster for women to be taken seriously or given the right to take care of their family without being penalized by society.
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