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Workplace gender equality in the post-pandemic era: Where to next?

The University of Sydney




Influencing Gender Norms Workplace Gender Equality

Workplace gender equality in the post-pandemic era: Where to next?

Workplace gender equality in the post-pandemic era: Where to next?

The Workplace Gender Equality in the Post-Pandemic Era: Where to Next? journal article, written by the University of Sydney Business School and published in the Journal of Industrial Relations, examines the impact of the pandemic on women’s employment, labour force participation, earnings, unpaid care work and experience of gendered violence.

The authors identify five key areas where action is urgently required to create a more equitable post-pandemic recovery:

  1. addressing gender-based labour market segregations and discrimination;
  2. building access to mutually beneficial flexibility;
  3. ensuring a more gender-equitable distribution of unpaid care;
  4. confronting gender-based violence at work and beyond; and
  5. mobilising union action through gender equality bargaining.

The article discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed longstanding gender inequality in the labour market, especially women’s concentration in more flexible – and therefore precarious – jobs which attract lower rates of pay.

It also explores how the pandemic intensified the disproportionate burden of unpaid domestic work – and, in some cases, violence – experienced by women at home. Building from this discussion of ‘where we are now’ in terms of workplace gender inequality, the authors consider ‘where to next’, drawing on the insights from the articles included in this special issue.


  • The COVID-19 pandemic revealed and, in many cases exacerbated, longstanding gendered inequalities at work and at home.
    • Around the world, women were disproportionately exposed to the virus at work, as frontline workers in ‘essential’ industries and occupations.
    • Women also experienced greater job losses as workers in industries most affected by business closures and government-mandated lockdowns.
    • With schools and early childhood education centres closed for weeks or months, women also shouldered a larger burden of unpaid domestic duties at home, and experienced greater risk of domestic violence.
  • Far from being unpredictable, these outcomes reflected decades of gendered inequality. Feminist scholars have long asserted the need to recognise the gendered nature of employment relations; specifically, the way in which gender-based inequality is ‘institutionalised in the labour market.
  • From the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there arises an opportunity to establish new directions in workplace gender equality. However, doing so requires explicit recognition that economic crises have gendered impacts that necessitate gender sensitive institutional responses.


  • Introduction
  • Workplace gender equality: Where are we now?
    • Women’s employment and labour force participation
    • The (under)valuation of feminised industries and occupations
    • The distribution of unpaid care work
    • The impact of gendered violence
  • Workplace gender equality: Where to next?
    • Addressing gender-based segregation and discrimination
    • Building mutually beneficial flexibility
    • Ensuring more gender equal sharing of unpaid work
    • Confronting gender-based violence at work and beyond
    • Mobilising union action through gender equality bargaining
  • Conclusion

This factsheet was originally published in the Journal of Industrial Relations.

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