Women were significantly less likely to be hired than men during the peak of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown period, according to a study.
LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index shows that hiring of women reached its lowest point in April, when it fell to 42%, before recovering to 45% in July.
Women are consistently less likely to be hired than men, but this is a much larger discrepancy than in previous years. Women accounted for 46% of hires in the UK in 2019, the data shows.
Women in the recreation and travel industry were hardest hit, with hires falling 13% — from 44% pre-pandemic, to just 31% in May of 2020.
The data shows female hiring improved as restrictions to contain the coronavirus lifted, and has now returned to levels seen before the pandemic.
However, while this is positive, women started from a lower baseline and “still need to make up for the loss of hires in April and May”, LinkedIn said.
The study also found women are feeling significantly less confident about their future work prospects, in comparison to men. What’s more, working mums are bearing the brunt of additional childcare responsibilities.
Over a quarter (27%) of working mums said they were caring for their children by themselves, and nearly a third (32%) said they were providing full-time childcare, compared to less than a fifth (19%) of men.
Working dads are also more likely to alternate childcare duties within their household, with nearly two in three (61%) doing this, compared to just a third (34%) of women.
Two thirds (62%) of women reported increased levels of stress or anxiety due to the pandemic, compared to less than half (48%) of men.
Women are also 10% less confident in their ability to get or hold onto a job than men, the study found.
Similarly, women are two thirds (67%) less confident in their ability to progress their career than men, and a whopping 133% less confident about their ability to improve their financial situation in the next six months, the data shows.
This data underscores the importance of flexible working policies from employers, LinkedIn director Janine Chamberlin said.
She explained: “Women are facing greater hurdles when it comes to employment opportunities and career progression due to the global pandemic. Many women have had to juggle ever-increasing work commitments with heightened childcare and household responsibilities.
“The concern is that with greater demands on their time and higher levels of stress, working mothers may consider reducing their hours or leaving the workforce entirely.
“Employers have the opportunity to create more flexibility so that women do not have to choose between their children and their careers. Now is the time for organisations to consider flexible hours and remote working — these initiatives can go a long way in helping to retain women in the workforce.”
Since the start of lockdown, working mothers charity Pregnant Then Screwed has experienced its free legal advice lines “ringing off the hook with pregnant women worried about their careers”, according to founder Joeli Brearley.
“Lockdown saw a number of mothers taking on the lion's share of caring duties and housework, with many believing this has either impacted their career prospects or will certainly harm them in the future,” she said.