Measuring gender imbalance during lockdown

The Wheeler Institute supports Professor Ramdas’ new research: Asymmetric Time Use Effects of the ‘Great Lockdown’

Developing insights related to gender inequality and workforce participation during COVID-19

This project will address measures during the ‘Great Lockdown’ brought about in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Through our research, we will identify how lockdown measures affect male and female productivity in the workplace differently, observe the impact in both developing and developed countries and look at measures business can take as a result. The analysis will look at how businesses and workers responded to the shock of being forced to work from home and the effects of household activity and childcare on their working hours and productivity.

Focus is given to the unequal impact on men and women because the effects of COVID-19 are likely to differ by gender. Women are typically highly represented in service sector jobs that are considered essential and have to be performed onsite. Furthermore, women also traditionally bear a greater responsibility for childcare than men, for both cultural and economic reasons. As a result, it is natural to expect that mothers with small children will see larger shifts in their time use following school closures than will fathers or childless adults of either sex

In partnership with a digital market place company called ‘Powr of You,’ the research will combine three sources of data. First, retrospective URL-level web browsing histories of participants. This data includes the URL of each website visited along with its title (e.g., name of a YouTube video), timestamps and duration of each visit. Secondly, there will be analysis of weekly application-level smartphone usage durations of participants for the last 90 days. Finally, a survey focusing on participants’ i) work and home-care related activities, ii) web and app usage dynamics, iii) certain demographic characteristics and iv) self-reported subjective wellbeing measures will be conducted.

The Impact

The research will seek to provide insights for businesses to support their employees, including by helping employees improve their productivity in all work, reorganising how office work is done, and offering support at home to create more time for work.

  1. This will allow businesses to improve productivity in all work by understanding more about:
    a) Measuring willingness-to-restrict access to entertainment or leisure websites
    b) Assessing internet access quality
    c) Evaluating employee “wellness programmes”  
  2. It will support businesses reorganising office work, bringing about productivity gains through:
    a) Identifying efficient team formation
    b)Reorganising who does what task and where each task is done
    c) Finding predictability in childcare and housework tasks
  3. The research will help businesses offering home support by:
    a) Helping working parents engage children in online activities
    b) Supporting parents with access through schemes to buying laptops for their children
    c) Offering ‘backup childcare’ through remote caregivers or safe communities of remote childminders

Little is known about how working from home measures, a technology shock to the setting and nature of work for many, will affect the productivity and time use of employees who have been had to perform their jobs remotely. This is true for both developing countries and in the developed world. This research will address how the pandemic impacted women and men unequally, as well as look at ways businesses can improve the productivity of their workforce in both virtual and in-person settings.

Professor Ramdas

Who is involved?

The “ Measuring gender imbalance during lockdown” project is part of the Wheeler Institute COVID-19 Research Support. Please see here to learn more about our research support.

The Wheeler Institute is seeking to understand, illuminate and offer solutions to the challenges created by COVID-19.  With an aim to identify the role of business in addressing these challenges and a focus on the implications and actions for those in developing countries.  We are now offering a number of grants to members of the LBS academic community for new research on issues related to the current crisis.

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