The ongoing lockdown in Italy has put Marco Rovello face-to-face with the balancing act that his wife pulls off every day between working a job and running a household. Yes, COVID-19 has forced teleworking couples into suddenly sharing the same "home-office," daily rhythms and — ideally — a fair share of family chores and parenting responsibilities.
"Before, I admit it, I thought that this was more of a routine and above all it was [my wife] who asked me how the day had gone, and not the other way around." Rovello told Io Donna, the women's weekly insert of Milan-based Corriere della Sera . "To see her so busy, between her teleworking and home chores, it's natural to help out."
Er…"help out?" Being suddenly enlightened doesn't necessarily mean getting all that much wiser. Indeed, a recent study found that one out of three Italian women reported working even more since the lockdown began, while only one in five men felt the same.
French daily Le Monde recently published an article explaining how families could balance the workload, citing the fact that women in heterosexual relationships were already responsible for 70% of domestic labor on average. In the anglophone world, both British and American academic journals are reporting significant decreases in publications submitted by women with a simultaneous increase in pieces by men. A recent study attributes this, in part, to the fact that, "based on the existing distribution of child care duties in most families, mothers are likely to be more affected than fathers" by school closures and telework.
As for the women who aren't working, things look even bleaker. A recent report from Canada found that in March, more than twice the number of women in their prime professional years were laid off than men of the same age bracket. The Institute for Women's Policy Research also found that over 60% of Americans who have lost their employment to the epidemic are women. Some of this may be due to the female-dominated workforces in many of the hardest-hit industries, including retail, restaurants and travel. But, of course, there is still bias inside both firms and families.
This crisis, we hear, will "change everything." When it comes to gender equality, the experience of men like Marco Rovello will hopefully just be the beginning of a wider transformation of society and the world of work. Perhaps, in this case, the best place to start is at the top. Some have taken note that it is women presidents and prime ministers who've been making headlines around the world for their exceptional leadership in handling the pandemic: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ... Just "helping out," I guess.
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