LETTER: Equality is vital with coronavirus affecting more women than men

A reader shares their thoughts on equality during the coronavirus pandemic.

Medical staff on the Covid-19 ward at the Neath Port Talbot Hospital, in Wales
Medical staff on the Covid-19 ward at the Neath Port Talbot Hospital, in Wales

I am writing as am I absolutely appalled at the comments made by Councillor Brookes made at a recent council meeting, quoted in the Express and Star on 5 June. Equality is always important, and the global pandemic is affecting women more than it is men:

Women make up 77 per cent of workers in roles that are designated as high risk for exposure to the coronavirus. They also make up 77 per cent of healthcare workers, ranging from doctors to cleaners. Women really are on the frontline of fighting the virus.

The situation is particularly acute in care homes, where women make up 83 per cent of the workforce and where growing numbers of residents are dying from the virus. Unison has highlighted how workers are at risk of catching the virus, thanks in part to a lack of PPE and staff being told to come in even if they have childcare issues or underlying health risks.

The Women's Engineering Society found 74 per cent of PPE was designed for men, so women already have a disadvantage with ill-fitting PPE, which the TUC (Trade Union Congress) found can lead to 'significant problems'.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education found that mothers were 47 per cent more likely to have permanently lost their job or quit, and 14 per cent were more likely to have been furloughed since the start of the crisis.

Data from the Resolution Foundation showing that only one in 10 lower earners are able to work from home, and 69 per cent of low earners are women.

Experts also predict a childcare crisis, and the Fawcett Society estimates that 150,000 providers could go out of business. Given that 97 per cent of the childcare workforce are women, there risk’s being a double hit.

In addition, reports suggest that lockdowns across the globe have resulted in a huge increase in violence against women. Refuge, which runs the national domestic abuse helpline in the UK, has had a 10-fold increase in visits to its website in the past two weeks, and two-thirds of survivors responding to a Women’s Aid survey in April said violence had escalated under lockdown.

Perhaps some diversity and inclusion training is required?

Lisa Conn, Stafford

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