With the Covid-19 reaching a pandemic status in March, the global workplace has undergone a major shift of historical proportions. Unemployment is reaching unprecedented peaks worldwide and working from home has become the “new normal” for many major global companies. But this isn’t new for freelancers, particularly not for women in freelance jobs, who have been developing the skills that are essential to navigate the challenges of this pandemic.
Women have been disproportionally hit by the coronavirus crisis
As UN publications confirm, women make up most of the essential services workforce and are more likely to have lower-paying or informal jobs than men. Furthermore, they carry out most of the burden of domestic work and childcare, while also supporting their households. Risk of domestic violence has increased as a result of living in quarantine, while support services for the victims have become less effective, turning the pandemic into an emergency within an emergency for women.
How are women coping?
An increasing number of women support groups and publications have been around for several years, but since the lock-down started in numerous countries around the world, these online communities seem to have strengthened and become an essential support net for women.
Glennon Doyle, a North American best-selling author and activist, is one of the notorious examples of women supporting other women through their online platforms. She runs a blog called Momastery and a non-profit organisation by the name of Together Rising. Her book Untamed is a memoir describing what happens when women find their voice.
As Glennon claims in many of her posts and inspirational talks, one of the keys to female strength is slowly letting go of commonly held ideas about how women should behave, in order to start bravely imagining and allowing their own styles and strategies to arise.
Letting go of social expectations is important to develop new skills
An article by the Washington Post on mother’s day showcased 8 US working moms from several walks of life, placing these heroes in the spotlight and praising them for their efforts and their stay-positive attitudes. All interviewed women agreed that they had stopped aiming for impossible perfection and softened the pressure they initially put on themselves and their family when the lockdown started.
In order to navigate the demands of working and raising children at home, it was important for them to preserve their own mental health and that of their loved ones: “surviving is enough”, they claim. A key to remaining positive and able to enjoy their lives at home was letting go of excessively high expectations, such as limiting TV or screen-exposure hours, ensuring they had a perfectly balanced diet or helping them learn a new language.
As described by the Wire, women have always worked from home, so they already hold the secrets to juggling domestic chores with professional success. By integrating the support of other women and releasing themselves from rigid social roles they may have perfected the skillset to survive a global pandemic.
What are the predictions for the post-pandemic workplace?
The latest ILO estimates for the second half of 2020 reveal a decline in working hours worldwide “which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs”. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest impacts that the pandemic has had and will continue to have on the household-level economy.
But female remote-workers and freelancers have mastered the arts of running their homes while working, raising kids (or caring for other family members) while working, supporting their communities and advocating while working. Notably, they have managed to create their own start-ups and lead their own companies, while staying mentally and physically healthy, and helping others develop their full potential.
During a time when remote work might be here to stay for an ever-increasing population worldwide, freelance women have the superpowers we all need. If we are going to navigate this world crisis, we need to learn from their caring, empathetic and smart ways of multitasking and prioritising.