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Covid-19 and women's equality

A nurse with cleaning equipment, a woman in an apron cooking, a women in a lab coat with shopping, a call handler, and a woman ironingWe want to know how Covid-19 is impacting on women's lives in Scotland.

This isn't just a public health issue for women - it comes with an increase in unpaid care, precarity for those in insecure housing, higher risks for those in low-paid and precarious work, damaging societal expectations of motherhood, new ways of carrying out online harassment, and many other ways in which women are being discriminated against.

Your stories of how the pandemic is affecting you - from domestic micro-aggressions to exploitative employers - will be used to inform our policy work and highlight how the virus is having a disproportionate impact on women.

If you are seeking support, please visit our Covid-19 resources page here.

job offer withdrawn
October 8, 2020

I’ve got primary aged children, I work part-time and my partner works fulltime for the NHS.

In January I applied for a new job (office based, non-covid, NHS role), more hours, more money, closer to home, absolutely ideal and the next step for me. I’ve been in my current role probably longer than I should have been due to having babies and the flexibility it offered.

The recruitment was delayed due to covid and I was interviewed remotely in June and I got the job! Absolutely delighted, this was a huge opportunity for me, but….

No childcare was open at this time whatsoever, I was working from home whilst home-schooling children, grandparents too vulnerable to help, my partner never home as working shifts in busy NHS department. I had no indication of when schools would reopen and if wraparound childcare would be available. I explained the situation to the employer (NHS ‘family friendly’ employer remember), asked if there would be scope to reduce the hours due to covid situation and lack of available childcare – no sorry it’s a full time role and they withdrew the job offer on the spot! Gutted.

I feel lucky to still have a good part-time positon elsewhere as some people are in much worse situations at the moment but it’s a brilliant career opportunity that’s passed me by, ultimately because I’m a woman and there was no childcare available, during a pandemic.

Attempting to home-school children, whilst working from home, alone most of the time as my partner was working in a hospital was one of the most stressful situations I have encountered. I felt like a failure as a parent and an employee. Constantly on edge, anxious, losing my temper with the children. No contract or support from school, family shielding, I felt completely alone, isolated and close to breaking point a lot of the time. We’re not a family that would usually need support, but I needed it then. I am so scared of the prospect of another lockdown over winter.

'lazy artist'
October 8, 2020

I work in the creative industries. Of course, that means I have several other jobs on the go at the same time (show me anyone working in the arts who doesn't!). My zero hours bar work has just disappeared due to the new central belt restrictions - but the guys have been kept on. My options for work are limited due to childcare - first home schooling, now knowing that at any moment there could be a breakout in the school and they'll be sent home to self-isolate.

Due to the nature of my work, I wasn't eligible for furlough, or the self-employed support scheme, and I'm still waiting on Universal Credit.

My living expenses have gone up - no heated shared studio to work in, constant demand for snacks (from me and the kid!) - and I'm facing the prospect of Christmas coming with me broke, no chance of work, and family far away.

Worker and mother
September 24, 2020

Switched from office working to working from home with 9 year old at home.
Manager furloughed the full-time Office Manager even though they too could have worked from home (a cashflow decision I felt). Their work, instead, was split amongst the boss, her husband (who has his own full-time job) and me who was asked to do overtime (in spite of having to home-school in addition to working and shop for my mother who was in the shielding category.
When things got too much for my boss, they took time off, leaving me to cover the phone, alone, from my home with my daughter in the next room, able to hear when a disgruntled client had called and seeing the effect that would have on me.
Because I didn't have any kind of safe office setup at home, I developed sciatica which I am still suffering with now even after purchasing the correct office equipment, at my own expense. I didn't earn enough to utilise any tax rebates for working from home.
It was acs small accounting office so we had to deal with a huge influx of requests for help with the furlough scheme, loans and SEISS claims and some clients were understandably in distress at times, and some took that out on us.
My boss was in the shielding group and was very afraid of contracting Covid and dying and it impacted on her mood and I felt the effects of that as well as the break down in another work relationship she was having that I felt drawn into unnecessarily.
I left my job a few weeks ago when I couldn't take it anymore.
My boss accepted my resignation with no question and offered me a zero hours contract instead. I declined.
I am very lucky that my husband's salary is enough for us to live on now that we are resigned to never holidaying again and foregoing our plans to move home next year.

Teacher
September 23, 2020

How it feels as ex shielded teacher?
I really missed the buzz of teaching when I taught on line during lockdown 1.0. I was shielding and it was hard. I was worried first about the impact on my pupils and their learning and mental health. Once I have taught you then you are always my kid. I did hate the sterile lack of interaction that online lessons gave me.
Now back in the classroom since mid August, I have to say I’m happy and very scared and anxious. It is not safe. The kids are packed in like sardines. No masks in classrooms and no sd happening indoors or outdoors makes it a Covid nightmare waiting to happen.
I wear a n95 mask all my time in school only taking it off when alone and to quickly eat my lunch. Mentally I like seeing pupils again but I suffer from the anxiety as I am constantly backing away from them.

My best friends school already had a bad out break with in school transmission between staff and pupils. Pressure to keep this quiet was brought into play. Teachers and staff are threatened with GTCS code of conduct or disciplinary action if they do speak out. Like most people they have bills and mortgages to pay. It’s hideous that they are ask to hush up cases. However human nature shows us that few stand up against the injustices when their livelihoods are threaten. How do you think the nazi’s got away with it?
If schools are to continue to be open we need blended learning. It’s the only safe option for all. We need testing to be a priority for teachers, TA and pupils. We need to wear masks indoors anywhere and sd our pupils and sort out ventilation.
Ex shielded staff and pupils need to be protected by really minimising our contacts. So we need to restart shielding. We are not asking for the food boxes to restart just the ability to do our job at home. If shielding isn’t unpaused we are in crowded indoor environments which we have letters saying we need to avoid.

The RA are not protecting us. We have hygiene theatre of hand sanitiser and two meters from the pupils if possible. When we have poor ventilation and lesson times of 80mins we really are sitting ducks. We have masks we can wear which protect no one if all are not wearing. I purchased my own n95 masks as I can take the risk of a simple mask.
If I get Covid, it will possibly reactivate a cytokine storm which I’ve already suffer from in 2013. I can’t risk the damage that did being repeated. I couldn’t walk for 6months and being awake for more than 2hrs a day. That is a live I have struggled to avoid and having rebuilt my health through long and hard work I am unwilling to let Covid or rubbish politicians put me back there.
My school recently lost a member of staff not from Covid. This really rocked us as a community. Imagine now if we start losing pupils and staff how much impact that will have on the mental health of us all. With a 1% death rate if our school lost 1% of staff and pupils that is 19 lives lost. That’s worse case scenario and unlikely to happen but if say 10% of our school population got infected that’s still 2 life’s lost. This will devastate the community.

There is a simple and easy solution blended learning. It is not ideal but hey neither is a pandemic. There isn’t anything fun or convenient about pandemics and work and school.
Unfortunately, I feel my plea will again be me screaming into the void. I want my pupils and colleagues alive. The only way to ensure this is face (mask on unless eating) and space (sd for all) and well okay we can keep the hand sanitiser if we must. I love my kids (even when I don’t like their behaviour) but I can sacrifice the buzz of being back in the classroom if I know we are safe. Just wanting it to be safe but ignoring the fact that in school transmission are occurring isn’t an answer for anyone. Teachers are already having shortages in STEM subjects can you really afford to kill us off or make us disabled. We love our kids and our jobs so much so we to be around next year to teach again....but we don’t we want to die on a hill due to political reticence to admit a mistake.

Full time working single Mum of 2 in Edinburgh
September 23, 2020

My life is always one big juggle between work and caring for my children, I am also studying towards a Masters but when lockdown came and the kids were home schooling on top of that I was literally working around the clock. My kids are young and my eldest is autistic so they both need a lot of care and attention and support for their learning and my work didn't stop. I work in a University so I had a full marking workload and tight deadlines.

We got into a routine, my eldest daughter has disordered sleep and so wakes around 5am, we would go for our walk early and then get back and start their home schooling, I usually had a couple of online classes or meetings so the kids would go and play for a while. Most of my colleagues were understanding when they were noisy or interrupted but some were not and made undermining comments. It was full on all day trying to get the kids through their work, making sure they were fed, washed and given sufficient attention.

When they got to bed I would hit the laptop and begin marking and my own research work often from 7.30/8pm- 11pm/midnight at this point I would force myself to bed as I knew I would only have a few hours before it all began again. I felt under enormous pressure to get my work done and guilty for leaving it incomplete at the end of the day.

I found it very difficult to fit in self care, even basics like showering (I know gross!). One of the biggest challenges as well was that I am normally very active and run 5k everyday to get to work and 10k at the weekend. Under lockdown restrictions I could not leave my children at all and my activity dropped to almost nil. I have gained weight and lost fitness.

It was very difficult for my autistic daughter who often took it out on the wee one who became very clingy to me and a bit withdrawn.
I was awaiting a contract extension which came in at the very last minute and this was so stressful as without a job we would be in dire straits. I also have had to take an interruption from my studies as it all became too much.

I absolutely cracked at one point and called social work telling them I could not cope, they said I was doing fine. I started crying uncontrollably on the phone, not something that I ever want my kids to see. They said they would conduct an assessment of our circumstances but this can't be done under covid restrictions. I have heard nothing in months.

Shopping was also a challenge, my daughter does not cope well with shops at the best of times and I really struggled to get delivery slots. We were not considered a priority despite me being a single parent and my daughters' disability.

exhausted
September 23, 2020

I'm finding it hard to accept that this won't be over, and instead we'll just keep tweaking the restrictions.

I agree with the measures, but it is so difficult to explain to my kids why things keep changing and when they'll be able to see extended family again.

Academic with a young child
July 20, 2020

Working from home has been incredibly difficult with my young daughter. When I am around she wants me - and me alone. I am the sole breadwinner and my husband usually looks after our daughter while I am work - they go to clubs, do the house care and cook, play, see friends. My daughter is happy with her days. But none of that is an option at the moment, and when I am at home my daughter refuses to do anything with my husband. It’s impossible to work with your child screaming for you in total desperation, not understanding why you can’t be with her. And more importantly, it’s totally unfair on her for me to try to work. This is her home - she has the right to come into the kitchen, into the living room. We don’t have a spare room to dedicate as an office. The university is now going back, but our office space is not prioritised for opening. It’s large open plan and the estates says it’s too expensive to put dividers up to make smaller (eg 20 people) bubbles. In the meanwhile, the more senior people (white men, >55yrs) tweet pics from their one person offices that they have returned to... I bet they returned from a home office, from a house where someone else was already the main attention of the children.

I know having children is a choice and I am more than happy to take the responsibility for my choice. But I hate it how this situation is resolved in ways that disadvantages women and children.

part time worker, full time parent
June 25, 2020

My partner and I both work for the same organisation. His job is much more 'high powered' than mine, and he works more hours. During Covid-19 we have generally both been able to work flexible to jointly look after our 3 year old. But because my job doesn't involve so many important phone calls and meetings, if there is childcare to be done and we are both trying to work, it is always me who has to sort it out.

It is so frustrating - I know it makes sense a lot of the time, he has a higher wage and more hours, but my work is still important, and I still have to get it done! We are in such a fortunate position - still working and with flexible employers, and yet the gendered divide in childcare is hitting home so hard during the crisis. I don't think it's a coincidence that my work in admin and in supporting clients is dismissed as less important than talking to higher profile people, and that homeschooling and care of our young child is dismissed as merely playtime.

Mother of 1
June 18, 2020

Hello Mums,

I'm a working women who is working in renowned IT firm. Since my daughter was just 4 months and I'm working till now as she is now 7 year. Over the years I thought things will become better but it acts like a slow poison and is rupturing my relations with my kid and husband. I have faced many challenges raising her. Though my in-laws are there to take care of her, we don't have a healthy relationship.

My daughter's main challenges are:
1. Food and eating problems
2. Watching excessive mobile and TV
3. Not doing homework and doesn't want to study and write home work and during Covid 19 - she has totally lost interest in studies.
4 .Don't listen to parents or grand parents.

I'm losing love and respect from my husband's side and from in-laws side due to work schedules and styles.Yes definitely I'm helping my family through my earnings but I'm losing happiness, love, care, attention and rupturing relationship with my kid.

What is the use of working then? My parents who are very hard work and belongs to middle class family don't let me lose job.

Can anyone suggest me what is the right thing to do at this point.

Shall I leave my job during covid 19 period? As many who want jobs are not having them. And I have job but I'm not happy .

Thanks

Fiona - working mum
June 9, 2020

Covid-19...social media goes mad with furloughed mums and dads building play houses and bars in their gardens, enjoying bbqs and cocktails in the sun while entertaining their kids with endless crafts and homemade McDonalds. Meanwhile, my husband is at sea, on a different ship almost daily, making sure that essential trade reaches the U.K from sea - it's essential work with endless nightshifts. The U.K couldn't manage without it, but it could lead to us all contracting the virus and there's nobody out there 'clapping for sailors'.

So, I'm at home' holding the fort' working almost full time and home schooling, home caring and managing housework. It's difficult, it's tiring, its emotional. I ask to be furloughed on the grounds of no childcare, but my job is essential. I work for a national fostering organisation and we're busier than ever. I love my job, I love my family... but I'm tired of spinning so many plates.

Lock down is easing, but we're new to this town. With no friends, family or support I decide to send my 5 year old back to school. It's better for him after 11 weeks at home with both parents working full time, but I am shamed for making a decision that could spread the virus.

There's no easy answer, as a woman I feel that I have suffered the inequality of coronavirus.

Software engineer and mother
June 6, 2020

My husband and I both work as software engineers, though in very different roles and companies. I have recently returned to work after having our son, and we are lucky that both our jobs are largely possible from home. However, it is not possible to focus enough to do our jobs while supervising our one-year-old who's into everything and constantly requiring attention, and of course our son was never able to start nursery as planned. As with all our friends, for our own reasons, it is me who has reduced my hours. My husband works full time hours but has reorganised them to allow me two long days during the week, which I make up to a total of three. We were worried about his job security if he'd reduced his hours, plus he is the higher earner. This is more flexibility than many fathers in our experience seem to be showing, he's been wonderful about everything and does the majority of the housework and cooking as well as a significant amount of the childcare.

I had already struggled to come to terms with taking the time out of such a fast-paced career to have a child, and this is likely to further impact my career progression for two main reasons - 1. The reduced hours to do my job plus keeping up with developments in the field etc. 2. In the run-up to my maternity leave morale on my team was really bad and I definitely would have applied for other jobs if I had been free to. Instead I planned to look for a new job around now, before considering trying for a second child.

Leaving my current, secure job seems unwise right now, so I might not be in a position to change jobs to progress my career for some time. I'm currently enjoying the job itself (probably largely for the escape from childcare) but it's not stretching me. I also feel (and have been told by more senior engineers) that I've been working above my grade for several years now. I feel that my lack of progression is in part due to being a woman - that's improssible to know for certain, but it's frustrating to be unable to do anything about it by looking elsewhere, and potentially accept several more years at a grade below where I know I should be.

Mother 2 under 5, full-time worker and MSc student
May 26, 2020

I began to have concerns about my commute in early March and was fortunate to be able to work from home even before lockdown was announced. Once the schools and nurseries closed, I was at home, working, studying and caring for two very small children alone. I naively thought I would home-school, that lasted an hour. My husband did not get asked to work from home for another 2 weeks, despite my begging him to force his employers hand - they were prioritising based on resources and his role in providing childcare was not high on the list. We now both work from home but he insists his employer is not overly lenient or understanding of his role as a parent, meaning I inevitably deal with the children more throughout the day. I am desperate for one of us to be furloughed, thankful we are financially able to weather that, but neither of us understand our rights and are worried the impact that may have should either position become untenable. He is in the private sector so his role is not as secure as my own. I am very concerned about the changes in my sons behaviour, he is not as emotionally robust and is quick to get upset. I find it painful as a mother for my children to see us both at home, yet we are invariably connected to a device and trying to distract, not engage them. This is not a nice place for anyone and it has went on so long it is now creating anxiety about transitioning out of it.

Single mother carer worker lecturer student
May 23, 2020

Lockdown began on 16th March. Face to face teaching ended then too. Forced to try and deliver term 3 of a practical course on line to young adults who are obviously sitting thinking, this is not what I signed up for. I have two jobs, working part time and teaching part time. Both are now being done from home.
Then school shut and now juggling primary 7 son school work and two jobs at home. My son has a diagnosis of high functioning autism. I am blessed with a beautiful boy who is smart, funny and a talented artist. He is very sociable and is missing talking with everyone he meets. I worry about his mental health with lockdown and what will 1st year secondary school look like. I am a Masters student in my 3rd year an have a fast approaching deadline of 30th June for submission of work. I am a carer for my mother who is a cancer patient. She is shielding. I help with changing her bed, hovering cleaning floors, bathroom and kitchen weekly. Normally I would shop for her too, but so thankful to her brother that he has been shopping for her since the start of lockdown. I worry for my mother’s mental health during this lockdown. She has battled 5 different types of cancer over the last 20 years. The later three years battling 3 very serious cancers and amazing she has come through and is in remission for two of them. She was only just getting out to the theatre, gigs and restaurants when lockdown happened. Both my older brothers live in different city’s, and kind of leave it to me to help our mother normally, however I think this situation feels like it’s harder to manage everything. I got out of the abusive relationship with my sons father and I have been a single parent for 9 years now. The relationship is still volatile. My sons father has been no practical help through lockdown or before. My son stays with his father at the weekend, this allows me one day where I can breathe, sleep and write. I know that I am lucky to have this one day. I feel guilt and thing that I should do something to help others in the community on this day. What I miss most right now is siting in the theatre or going to a gig where I can just loose myself in the moment. Just for that moment.

Working Mum of 2 year old.
May 18, 2020

I am a full time charity worker, whose thankful to have a job where I can still work from home and understanding colleagues. My partner, and daughter's father, is out of work, so he's taking on the brunt of childcare whilst I carry out work from home.

It's been a strain - our relationship is being tested to new limits with being around each other 24/7. Our daughter, is relatively happy despite toddler outbursts on a half hourly basis. Of course it's hard going keeping a 2 year old entertained. Sometimes we just have to give her the tablet and let her play with games. We can't be 24/7 educators, entertainers and playmates whist being parents. She's desperately missing her friends at nursery, so I am concerned about her socialisation and education which she gets at nursery.

To be honest, I've felt a gnawing sense of guilt at times, trying to work at home, whilst knowing my partner and daughter are there trying to keep occupied/avoid confrontations when things get fraught. I've become the sole earner of the household overnight. Of course we take our breaks and walks when we can but the lines between work and home have become blurred. I long to get out the door in the morning to work with fellow colleagues and be around adults again but I'm no different to any other working Mum trying to keep motivated, balance plates and keep going....just longing for a light at the end of the tunnel.

Full time wfm mum
May 11, 2020

I have 1 child under 10 who I look after myself every day as her dad is an essential worker. I help him with school work, try to keep her occupied, cook, clean, do laundry, ironing, dinners, bathtime, make all the meals, bake sometimes, play with him and try to engage in outdoor learning, look after my older parent by doing her shopping and collecting meds, organising her bills, doing my own online shopping and bills, phone relatives to stay in touch as much as possible and take the little one out daily for an hour or so of fresh air and exercise.
I also work ft from home. But I don't manage to do it much during the day, so once the child is in bed and I've tidied up, I start at my pc around 8.30pm... if I'm lucky I get time for a bath on occasion, bedtime often after midnight, then back up at 5am or 6 to have a quick shower and get my husband organised for the day.. as he actually goes to work, hes tired and stressed which stresses me out too, so I end up doing pretty much everything.
I'm missing my friends and family and having an only child is tough as she misses her friends and family too.
I feel guilty for wanting five minutes alone, but nobody seems to get that I need space. I keep seeing people online asking for reading or box set suggestions to pass the time.. if only!!!

School teacher
May 11, 2020

During school closures, I have been redeployed to provide childcare once a week to the children of keyworkers in my local authority area.

I received a letter from the Head of Education at the local authority to inform us that we would be provided with full PPE by last week. However, when I arrived for my latest shift, there was no PPE for any member of staff. In addition to this, there was no soap in the building, meaning that staff and children were unable to properly wash their hands. It is difficult to get young children to adhere to social distancing, and not having soap heightened our exposure to coronavirus.

The lack of PPE puts us at risk, particularly as we are working with the children of frontline workers. The lack of soap in a school environment is outrageous at any point, never mind during a pandemic, which implies our risk is not being taken seriously.

fed up
May 7, 2020

Couldn't agree more. Identity stripped. Sick of it.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/03/i-feel-like-a-1950s-housewife-how-lockdown-has-exposed-the-gender-divide?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WhatsApp

Working mother of 2
May 4, 2020

I’ve just been furloughed (full pay, I acknowledge it could be a lot worse). Decisions had to be made very quickly about what staff were to be furloughed and who was to be kept on. We have roughly 50:50 gender split in our department but an all male management team. The only staff deemed business critical and kept on were men. It’s really shone a light on how roles have been assigned and how unconscious bias has had an effect.
Although personal circumstances were not to be taken into account, it’s resulted in a good few women being burdened with more childcare and keeping the housework going

Mother of 2 (4&7), full time student, part time research assistant, part time student support worker, volunteer Rape crisis worker, volunteer community councillor
April 29, 2020

My partner works in secondary services in the NHS in psychology and so doesn’t have much of a role during lockdown however the NHS also insists that as I am not a key worker I am responsible for the full time care (and schooling) of our children. So many plates to spin that I’m exhausted and a little broken.

Mum of two, working from hone.
April 24, 2020

I’m trying to balance working from home and caring for a pre schooler and eight year old and being unsuccessful at both.

I’m feeling resentful towards my partner who is also working from home but does 12 hour days in a home office only surfacing for food and comfort breaks.

He works extremely hard but all of the homeschooling and childcare responsibilities are down to me.

I am about to be redeployed and have asked to work weekends and a couple of days during the week to make things easier.

Working from home stress with a toddler
April 23, 2020

My office has staff working at home for now. I have a toddler who usually attends day care while I work at the office.
I'm struggling to balance work and childcare. With a small child present trying to focus on work is problematic. Trying to do my paid work and my main (and my favourite) job as a mother does not combine well at all. My partner is still working, out with the home and I can't help but feel envy that I want to go to work as normal. I can feel the impact this is having on my mental health and the overall health of my small family. When my partner returns from work I try to focus on additional work tasks that I have not completed for that day and can feel the expectation from my employer, but the feeling of constant working from morning to night has me feeling that I am not being the best mother or meeting my work expectations. I have read information online on how to work from home with a toddler, but it is so unrealistic. How are mother's coping with still doing their job and having a small child at home and doing both combined, do they expect to come out with their sanity intact, I do not 😒

Mum of 2
April 22, 2020

I'm lucky that my partner is doing the bulk of childcare, so I'm managing to balance work with school closure. But I still have to shut the door and hear my 3 year old crying on the other side because he doesn't understand that I'm home but can't play.

I speak to friends who are trying to work from home while their 5 and 2 year old are there wanting attention. The guilt that the mum is feeling, and the impact on the kids of the parents being physically present but not actually is so hard. The stress of doing both at the same time is going to have a big impact on mental health. No amount of mindfulness will help.
In Facebook groups I see mums asking for advice and they are working until midnight after putting kids to bed so that they can fit in their hours etc. I'm really really worried about burnout for so many women. (Because the majority of cases will be women. They have more flexible employers. They with part time so are expected to do it all. They are more involved with school work etc)

Mother of two young children
April 22, 2020

My partner and I have busy jobs and two young primary-age children. My employer hasn't mentioned furlough as an option for me and I am struggling to cope with two children who don't understand what is going on and my workload. My employer is offering flexibility, but there just aren't enough hours in the day for both me and my partner to do all the work we have to do and make sure that our wee people are taken care of. I'm worried about my mental health, but mostly about my children. My partner earns a lot more than me and I'm seriously considering resigning.

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