Women have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 but experts say they are also the most likely to lose out as a result of the pandemic.

The Fawcett Society, a charity that has been campaigning for women’s rights since 1866, claims a third of working mothers have lost work or worked fewer hours due to a lack of childcare since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. And the organisation warned that the pandemic could cause the gender pay gap to widen, as women are more likely to have taken on responsibility for home-schooling and childcare than men.

However, the health crisis has seen men taking greater responsibility for childcare than before, with the charity’s research finding that fathers were spending twice as much time looking after their children now than at the start of the pandemic last year.

Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day and the theme for the UN event is all about “achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world.”

The UN says the aim of the day is to celebrate the achievements of women and girls all over the globe, while working towards achieving greater equality as the world continues to fight against coronavirus.

Crisis is a ‘fork in the path of history’

Sam Smethers, general secretary of the Fawcett Society, said major crises have always been “forks in the path of history.”

She said: “The coronavirus crisis puts us at a crossroads again and it is clear that this applies to the gender pay gap. As the government begins to look towards rebuilding the economy, it must invest in our childcare and social care infrastructure, embed flexible working and improve paid leave for dads.”

With scientists playing such an important role in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, there have also been calls for more to be done to encourage women to go into STEM-related fields.

According to figures from UNESCO, less than 30 per cent of the world’s researchers are women. And female students make up just three per cent of those enrolling in ICT subjects at university, while women make up only five per cent of those starting higher education courses in natural science, maths and statistics.

In the UK, 35 per cent of students studying STEM subjects in higher education are women, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Those celebrating International Women’s Day this year are urged to recognise the amazing contribution women have made to the world of science and to push for more to be done to advance female education and equality.

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