A joint research project between Università Cattolica and the Politecnico di Milano School of Management to study the impact of Covid-19 on the life of working women
Since March 2020, the CAREER (CARE for womEn woRk) project, funded by Fondo Integrativo Speciale per la Ricerca and stemming from the collaboration between Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (“Carlo Dell’Aringa”-CRILDA University Research Centre for Family Studies and Labour) and Politecnico di Milano School of Management (Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering Department), has been investigating the experiences of working women during the pandemic to identify areas of intervention and solutions. The project involves 14 researchers from Milan’s two universities. On Wednesday 1 December, the first results were presented at the event “Women and the balance between work and home care. What the pandemic can teach us”.
As a result of the project, the managers in charge, Claudia Manzi, Professor of Social Psychology at Università Cattolica, and Cristina Rossi-Lamastra, Professor of Business and Industrial Economics at Politecnico di Milano, have drawn up an extremely complex picture of the working conditions faced by women in the last year and a half.
Working from home during the pandemic has had two-fold consequences and effects on working women. On the one hand, it has provided an opportunity to improve their work-life balance and their work performance. On the other, the gender bias sees women handling most domestic and family affairs (virtually single-handedly), thus restricting their work-family balance to a single sphere, the domestic one. This has had negative consequences not so much on the work performance of working women, but on their levels of stress and mental well-being.
As Professor Manzi of Università Cattolica states: “The underlying cause of this situation may be found in a combination of cultural, relational, logistical and organisational preconceptions. From a cultural point of view, the still largely unconscious adoption of stereotypical prejudices on the role of women in the work world and in the family sphere has undoubtedly been a major obstacle for women workers.”
“Such stereotypes,” says Professor Rossi-Lamastra, “result in an unequal allocation of resources. Through the CAREER project, we have seen that, when working from home, women are generally allocated a less adequate work space than men.”
Gender stereotypes have also been aggravated by a number of further situations: little and ill-formulated support from institutions and organisations, and in some cases, lack of support from partners, in addition to inadequate work spaces in the home.
The picture drawn by the research is certainly a complex one, but given how the world of work is evolving in Italy, if we are to promote and sustain female labour force participation then we need to take a less simplistic view of working from home. Above all, we need to develop a stronger sense of identity among working women in terms of their role within organisations and within society as a whole. Working from home should not become a way of preventing women from fulfilling their professional life and their identity as female workers.
The CAREER (CARE for womEn woRk) research project is still ongoing. For more information, please visit the official website at: https://projectcareer.it/