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How COVID-19 Affects Men And Women Differently
(Originally published on May 15, 2020)
Today, people often see teddy bears in windows. The teddy bear hunt is going on in neighborhoods globally, to perk up children (and adults) who feel disconnected. Creativity and fun don't discriminate.
A virus doesn't discriminate either. Yet, men and women are enduring different physical, economic, and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of these differences will likely impact the business environment and economic recovery.
Physical. Men and women have strikingly different COVID-19 death rates. In the US, 2x as many men as women have died from COVID-19 as of mid-April. In Western Europe, men represent about 69% of COVID-19 deaths. The reason behind these differences is still unknown, though researchers have some guesses. One is that women have a more effective immune response to the virus, as the genetic material that responds to coronaviruses is on the X chromosome. Women have two of these, so a double portion of that genetic material means a more vigorous immune response.
Lifestyle choices may also matter. Around the world, men smoke more than women. Smoking affects the lungs, which COVID-19 targets, and contributes to comorbidities for coronavirus, such as heart disease.
Economic. Women are disproportionately affected in another way: job losses. In the US, women saw a 0.9% increase in unemployment; men's number was 0.7% in March. Not only that, but a survey by Sheryl Sanberg's Lean In organization also found that almost 67% of employed women said that if they lost their job, they could only cover basic expenses for up to three months. At the same time, fewer than 50% of employed men said the same.
Another difference is found in the ability to work remotely. Many workers have kept their jobs by working from home. Among men, 28% of employed people can work remotely, while just 22% of women can, according to a Mannheim University economist who is studying the coronavirus gender effects in the US economy.
Social. Three-quarters of the 20M single parents in the US are women, which makes it difficult for them to do critical-sector jobs without also finding childcare. Even working from home can be difficult or impossible with small children not in daycare or school needing attention.
The situation does contain two possible silver linings. First, many businesses are adjusting to employees working from home. When the pandemic is over, employers may be more willing to continue with this arrangement, which may make it easier for both men and women to combine children with careers. This would assist in a faster economic recovery possibly.
Secondly, with many families together at home, a more unified approach to household management may prompt more women post-COVID-19 to venture out into the workforce. Some may even want to open new businesses. More new businesses would mean more new customers.