The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Quarterly Labour Force Survey found that women and people under 25 were more likely to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with long-term economic consequences for these groups.
This is due to a number of reasons including that these groups are more likely to hold employment in areas that have been forced to close down due to the pandemic, including retail, restaurants and hotels.
The Growing Club, based in Lancashire, made a further analysis by surveying the women in business within its network to understand how the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them.
Four problematic key areas have arisen from the feedback from the survey, summarised below:
- Business: The responses received indicated that the majority of women have been affected by the pandemic, with many women needing to close their business.
- Finances: Financial impacts varied, many women stating their income has been dramatically reduced and many unsure what the future holds.
- Home-schooling: Many women have assumed full caring responsibilities for young children, along with carrying out home-schooling. Several women have children with additional needs, resulting in being unable to work on their own business at all.
- Wellbeing: Women reported feeling overwhelmed, with tiredness and worry impacting them on a day-to-day basis. Many have been proactive in dealing with these feelings, trying to prioritise self-care through yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
Maintaining support for women in business
Jane Binnion, founding director of The Growing Club discusses the real affect on women in business and offers support to help them manage the challenges of lockdown.
“We talk a lot about women doing the ‘double-shift’ running a business and a home. But the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated that domestic responsibilities are not shared equally, even when they can be, thus reinforcing this label.
“Post-lockdown, we must place great weight on creating a level playing field for women. Extra financial support should be prioritised for women running small businesses, on a local and national recovery agenda. These women have had the critical jobs of caring for and educating children, caring for the elderly and running homes at the expense of their own businesses.
“While the business support world is all about getting the economy restarted post-COVID19, there is no sense of how many businesses are run by women. The damage on local economies and individual families who once again find themselves struggling on low incomes could be huge.
“We can no longer say we are planning for economic recovery without planning for economic equality. We will recover, but once again, it will be done with women having one hand tied behind them.”
Overcoming the challenges of lockdown and beyond
Here are our top tips and details regarding our support network and programmes:
1. Prioritise your tasks: You are not superwoman! We can’t do everything, so prioritise on essential tasks to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.
2. Maintain your network: In the Bloom and Grow business growth programme, women buddy-up. Many women have maintained those relationships and right now, being able to talk to someone you trust, can make all the difference. This might work for you.
3. Keep in touch: If you don’t do anything else, stay in touch with your customers via newsletter, social media or good old telephone. Let them know you are still out there and that you still care.
4. Network: The Growing Club runs a weekly (now virtual) drop-in on a Thursday, from 12.30 to 2pm. This is open to woman in Lancashire offering support and a chance to network. We also set weekly goals for accountability. You will find the links for these events on our Facebook events page.
5. Find support: Look for training and support you can join post lock-down to get you back up to speed. Our 12-month business growth programme Bloom and Grow which involves action learning with tasks, networking, peer support, one-to-one coaching and systematic process of growth – this could be just what you need.
6. Talk to us! Women who have joined our one-to-one sessions have discovered other ways to keep their businesses going. Give me a call on 01524 752723
Jane adds: “Our strategy for prioritising the women in our network has worked well so far, helping them to stay focussed and motivated during this tough time. Our weekly virtual drop-in sessions have become crucial for goal-setting and check-ins. Keeping in touch and helping to keep women buoyant has become our priority.”
The Growing Club runs employment and enterprise training for women in North West England.
When coronavirus hit, the organisation was unable to continue with its training programme face-to-face but adapted quickly to the lockdown situation to deliver all programmes online whilst working from home.
The organisation has received a government small business grant, and prioritised paying the team to keep going, and ensure be able to continue to support the many women in business that it works with.