Chung at her work place at Ivory Factory in Hau Loc District, Thanh Hoa province. Yen Duong/CAR

How to fix the sexist future of work

The first three industrial revolutions opened up rights and equality. The fourth one threatens to roll them all back.

“I want to send a message to men: women are not weaker than you. We earn the same money as you, we work the same amount of time as you do. Please spend more time with your families.”

That’s what Chung in Vietnam has to say about the future of work.

Hina in Pakistan talks about the challenges of running her business during COVID.

“We suffered a lot. There came a point at which we thought that we might not be able to stand our ground anymore. Yet I overcame the challenges and went on. Running a business and a house simultaneously is very hard. I get very little time to sleep.”

“If I hadn’t been brave, I might not be here now,” says Marlita Tenorio Gonzales, Peru.

Marlita Tenorio Gonzales runs a sportswear business in the Peruvian capital of Lima. CARE Peru
Marlita Tenorio Gonzales runs a sportswear business in the Peruvian capital of Lima. CARE Peru
Hina Sadaf Butt has been running a hostel in Islamabad, Pakistan for the past nine years. CARE Pakistan
Hina Sadaf Butt has been running a hostel in Islamabad, Pakistan for the past nine years. CARE Pakistan

The simple truth is that if we do nothing, the future of work is profoundly sexist.

COVID-19 accelerated the “work of the future” with remote work, more digital opportunities, and the fourth industrial revolution. At the same time, it also laid bare existing inequalities AND exacerbated those inequalities.

The first three industrial revolutions advanced rights and equality. This fourth one threatens to roll them all back.

COVID-19 set women’s rights back by an entire generation. Women fell out of the workforce faster than men, and had a harder time coming back to work. Women’s businesses were more likely to close, they lost more income, and got fewer loans to recover than male run businesses. Digital harassment went up dramatically for women—Thailand alone saw online hate directed towards women increase more than 23 times during the pandemic. Unpaid care work skyrocketed—and women took on nearly 4 times more unpaid care work than men did in 2020.

So where’s the inspiration here?

We can fix this problem.

In fact, we’re already starting to.

Chung, Hina, and Marlita are just three examples of women who found solutions with some support from CARE.

Pham Phuong Thao set up a business selling flowers and ornamental plants four years ago and now employs six people. CARE Vietnam
Pham Phuong Thao set up a business selling flowers and ornamental plants four years ago and now employs six people. CARE Vietnam

What’s changing?

  • Savings keep women in leadership and in the economy. For every $1 we invest in savings groups, women get $7 in the first year, and $18 by the fifth year. CARE's Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) give women leadership opportunities, and the support to keep their businesses running.
  • Women are making the workplace safer. Women are stepping up to end sexual harassment. In Laos, that meant the number of women who experienced harassment went from one in six to one in twenty.
  • Women have opportunities to lead. One woman in Pakistan says, “I feel good change in my life. I can frequently talk with people. Now we work together with men. … Now I speak confidently with women and men on any issue. This is big change in my confidence.”
  • Women are creating jobs. In Rwanda, women created more than 10,000 jobs for less than $10 invested per job—as long as that investment came with training for men to support women entrepreneurs.
  • Women are running businesses. Investing in women entrepreneurs can create $5 trillion in economic growth. Fariha in Pakistan says, “Through business, women can become more independent and confident and they can support their families.  Once you take that first step, new pathways will open up.”
  • Women are accessing loans on their own terms. CARE's IGNITE project has reached 5.36 million and impacted 42,515, getting financial partners to disburse USD $ 33.9 million in loans.  In Pakistan, now women can get loans without a man signing for them. In Vietnam, loan size went from $2,000 to $4,000, while interest rates dropped by 2%.
  • Equality improves agriculture: Investing in gender equality—working with men and women—in Burundi more than doubled rice production, reduced violence, and gave a $5 return for every $1 invested. As a major driver of economies and of climate change, improvements in the agriculture sector’s equality and climate impacts are a cornerstone of a resilient future for everyone.

What do we do now?

It’s time to scale up the successes that we see when we invest in gender equality.

Invest in women leaders and organizations

Women’s rights organizations have been on the forefront of gender equality in countries all over the world for decades. They have critical expertise on what investments will work, and how those investments can pay off over the long term. We need to pay to support these groups and fund their time and expertise to design gender equality strategies for the future of work.

Equal pay for health work

Investments in health workers could provide a $10 return for every $1 invested in the system. It will also strengthen pandemic preparedness—which is better for the economy.

Focus on an equal future.

Companies should invest in training, education, and employment opportunities that close the gap in the “jobs of the future” that currently show dramatic underrepresentation for women.

Include and pay women throughout supply chains 

We need to ensure that women are involved in global supply chains and that they get equal pay and recognition for the work they do. We nee to pay special attention to women farmers, women in the workplace, and women health care workers.

Reduce unpaid care burdens 

We must help people figure out how to split the load of unpaid care—childcare, housekeeping, looking after sick family members, etc. Supporting parental leave for all, childcare for all, and sick leave for everyone is key.

Partnering with men and boys for equality

Getting men involved—understanding the needs and barriers they face, and the social norms that constrain them—are a key part of the solution. EVERYONE benefits in a more equal society.

Promote digital literacy and equal access to technology

It is essential that safe online spaces and resources are created for everyone. This will reduce access online barriers to women’s entrepreneurship.

Want to learn more? Check out the report: The Future of Work is Sexist.