Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Second Order Gender Bias in The Netherlands The socioeconomic effect of the Coronavirus crisis on Women THE HAGUE _ It is the third week of social isolation measures in the Netherlands. Schools, daycares, restaurants and sport centres are closed. Teleworking -wherever possible- is encouraged and everybody is trying to adjust to the new reality of restrictions in one of Europe’s most liberal countries. Female employees, freelancers and small/medium entrepreneurs, from their 30s plus and with family, are those who suffer the most, both socially and financially, as a result of the Pandemic crisis response. Yet no one seems to address the problem at its root, which in the case of The Netherlands go way under the mere effects of the current situation.
Anne (36), mother of two young children, working part-time, is not an exception. Everyday she wakes up at 5am and works until 7am. This is until the children wake up and get ready to jump to the new schedule of homeschooling. It is the time for Anne to transform herself to a primary educator, chef, hygiene specialist and carer for her partner’s productivity at home. Simply put, she has to keep the kids fed, entertained, quiet and busy until 5:30 pm when the main breadwinner of the house finishes all work related tasks. Meanwhile the house must be in order, neat and fully grocery- stored to ensure continuity and resilience during this extraordinary home-centred life for all. By the time the family finish supper, Anne finds a couple of hours to maybe finish her work projects, but wait: she feels rather exhausted from the daily tasks, plus the kids next room trigger her “maternal intervention” response behaviour; they deny to be showered and put to bed by their father (!). The existing atmosphere fills Anne with anxiety rather than productivity. If Anne is lucky, her feminist male manager can wait for her kids to fall asleep and her partner to chill with Netflix, in order for her to be able to deliver after office hours. How much more do you think Anne will endure such a schedule? How much longer until she and her partner engage to a “who works and who cares" dilemma? What are Anne’s chances of continuing business as previously? To how many women like Anne you have talked these days? Are you one of them? #annedilemma Part-time job is a very popular option for medium to high skilled female employees in the Netherlands. Statistics published in the EU Commission’s Report (2019) on Equality detail that 75% of the people working part time in the Netherlands are women. An issue that raises concerns with regard to the actual protection of female rights at workplace. How can women be financially independent when they earn less? Is part-time employment a career decision or are they left with no other choice? The Dutch government has published policy papers for the issue of gender equality at work. A report by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science states that civil society together with Governmental, European, International bodies, and the private sector, develop projects to ensure female participation in the two extremes of workforce: low skilled labor and top executives. The issue of part time employment is not touched upon. Yet the 2019 Gender Equality Index for the Netherlands shows that the participation rate of women in full-time employment is only 36.9%. The vast majority of these women according to the same data are occupied in education, human health and social work activities. The notion of “care" seems to carry a female predisposition, with male representation in the sector reaching only 9.5% of the overall number. Apparently this is not new to the world. During the researchers were concerned with the harmful impacts of the viruses -as a matter of health, but also socioeconomically- to women and girls. Epidemics appear to affect women disproportionately in many ways. The so called “female” occupations are most likely to be disrupted by crisis response measures. With 34.9% of female workers in the Netherlands working in healthcare (as opposed to 9.5% of the male workforce working in the same sector), a large number of women are physically exposed to pathogenous conditions. For the women who telework, the heavy burden of home care does not leave much of a choice or energy for career pursuing. Why are women perpetually facing the same old challenges? According to a UN Development Program analysis on social norms (2020) conducted in 75 countries (representing 80% of total world’s population), the vast majority of male and female respondents (more than 86% in total) are sceptical about the role of women both in politics and in the economy. To everyone’s shock the report highlights that more than 40% of people endorse male superiority in political and business arena. A statement that seriously undermines the collective efforts for progress in gender equality in all parts of the world. Back in the Netherlands, #annedilemma , the dilemma of numerous women like Anne, suggests that the pandemic crisis response has created a unique situation in which the untold issue of second order gender bias manifests itself. If the country is to lead the way in the battle against gender disparities, there is now a great momentum. If the untapped female talent is to be exploited in the post-pandemic era the government, business and civil society alike must be vocal and come up with real solutions to the challenges faced by the middle-level female workforce.
Written by Eleni Gkiola.
About the author : Eleni Gkiola is a communications consultant. Currently, she is working with Coachability Foundation to empower female entrepreneurship in small and medium-size businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Pic of Nathan Dumlao