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COVID-19 Impact on Working Women in Asia

The Conference Board




Influencing Gender Norms Workplace Gender Equality

COVID-19 Impact on Working Women in Asia

COVID-19 Impact on Working Women in Asia

The COVID-19 Impact on Working Women in Asia report by the Conference Board explores the outsized impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working women. The analysis includes many troubling trends such as increased gender based-violence, increased unpaid work burdens, a widening of the gender-based digital divide, and a spike in cyber harassment.

The report considers specific challenges in Asia, such as gender disparities in unpaid work allocation; smaller living spaces in Asia that disproportionately affect work productivity for women; and domestic violence and cyber-harassment targeting women.


The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked advances in Work from Home arrangements and more recently, the emergence of the hybrid workplace – a judicious blend of Work from Home and in-person office presence. However, the unfolding picture for working women is far from rosy. The United Nations and international Labour Organization warn of a “Great She-Cession” – a significant and long-lasting decline in workforce participation by women.

Attracting, motivating, and retaining high-potential women in the workforce is critical and urgent for business continuity especially now, when companies across the world are grappling with acute pandemic-induced talent shortages. Work from Home has shifted even more of the unpaid work burden of household operation to women – childcare, elderly care, and housekeeping, etc. Increasing household burdens, and the associated stress and time demands, are causing many women worldwide to shun career advancement or quit their jobs.

Work from Home difficulties are exacerbated in Asia due to unique social and cultural factors. If unchecked, current trends will result in huge setbacks in the progress made on gender parity over the last few decades. Businesses and policymakers must act swiftly to address the adverse effects that the pandemic has set in motion for working women and, in so doing, can shore up talent shortages in their own organisations.


  • Executive summary
    • Insights for what’s ahead
      • Increase awareness
      • Coach managers on how to create “safe spaces” for women to share their challenges
      • Provide bespoke support options on an inclusive basis
      • Be vigilant and responsive on issues of cyber harassment and domestic violence
      • Adapt performance assessment methods for WFH
      • Tackle rehiring biases and enable women returnees
      • Enlist male champions
      • Engage with policymakers
  • The outsized impact of the pandemic on women
  • Pandemic impacts on the workforce – taking stock
  • The big picture: challenges faced by working women during the pandemic
    1. Women have suffered disproportionate job and income losses
    2. Women entrepreneurs have been severely affected
    3. The gender-based digital divide is widening
    4. Unpaid work disparities are worsening
    5. Violence against women is on the rise
    6. Cyber-harassment of women has spoked
    7. The leaky pipeline is becoming leakier
  • Asia-specific challenges for working women in the COVID-19 era
    • Women in Asia have a higher unpaid workload nowadays because of the pandemic
    • Smaller living spaces in Asia disproportionately affect work productivity for women
    • Domestic violence and cyber-harassment targeting women is on the rise
    • Corporate culture biases for in-person, in-office work put women at a disadvantage

This report was originally published on The Conference Board website.

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