The COVID-19 pandemic has gendered effects. Women, especially women of colour, Indigenous women, and low-income women, are particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, as well as to economic instability and curtailed access to services and resources. Trans and gender diverse peoples also face heightened risks due to widespread discrimination and stigma. However, men are more likely than women to be seriously ill and die from COVID-19.

This primer provides a summary of how gender impacts the ways the COVID-19 crisis is experienced, including key resources for further reading, and the implications for policy and action during and after the pandemic.

1.    Women are more likely than men to be frontline workers

Women are more likely than men to be healthcare workers, on the frontline of the pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, across 104 countries, women comprise 70% of health and social care sector workers.[1] In Canada, they are even more represented, at 81% of health care and social assistance workers.[2] This makes women more vulnerable to the disease. However, with the underrepresentation of women in leadership, women also do not often have their voices heard in decision and policymaking.[3]

2.    Women are more likely than men to do high-contact, economically insecure, and unprotected work

Women, and particularly women of colour, are also concentrated in jobs in the services and hospitality industries. These jobs involve high contact with people, and often do not offer paid sick leave.[4] This increases women’s risk of contracting COVID-19, and puts their families at higher risk as well.

These jobs are also likely to be precarious, low-paid, and part-time or temporary work, increasing women’s susceptibility to layoffs and economic insecurity.[5] This latter point means women may be more severely affected by the economic recession caused by the coronavirus. For example, evidence from the Ebola outbreak showed that men were able to return to their jobs and previous income levels faster than women were.[6] [7]

Resources (for 1 and 2)

Research and policy