For working parents, the past 18 months or so have been extraordinarily challenging.
From remote working to home schooling, all via a seemingly endless stream of Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls, even those used to juggling work and childcare responsibilities have been stretched to breaking point.
And in many families, it is mothers who have borne the brunt of the extra domestic workload.
Here, we investigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on women and ask what the asset management industry is doing to help working mothers keep their careers on track post pandemic.
This woman's work
Statistically, there is little doubt that working women have suffered disproportionately due to Covid.
Analysis from the Women's Budget Group, for example, shows that 133,000 more women than men were furloughed in 2020.
And PwC's research indicates that this pattern continued into 2021, as many more women were forced to work less due to the extra care burden.
In late 2020, the European Parliament also voiced concerns about the detrimental effect Covid was having on women in the workplace.
"Where people have been able to work at home, further challenges have arisen with juggling the additional care burden of children in the home and home-schooling," it said in The gendered impact of the Covid-19 crisis and post-crisis period.
"This has meant that some parents (predominantly women) have been forced to reduce their hours or leave their jobs to be able to manage the competing demands of paid and unpaid labour."
What women want
Unsurprisingly, given that women typically do so much more childcare than men, many female workers were keen for a more flexible work schedule even before the global health crisis.
According to the Chartered Management Institute, 42% of women with children said that flexibility from their employer around their current needs around work was a top five priority, compared to just 28% of men with children.
And once Covid restrictions began to bite, 69% of women with children said they wanted to work at least one day from home when the pandemic ends, compared to 56% of their male counterparts.
Offering flexible working should therefore help asset managers to retain talented women and promote gender balance, progression, and equal pay - especially at senior levels.
A hybrid solution
Asset management is not an industry that lends itself to a 100% remote working model. But with studies showing that most office-based would prefer a hybrid approach where they spend some time on site, a number of asset managers now offer employees the flexibility to manage their own working patterns, including where and when they work.
Several big firms have also invested in the Timewise and Diversity Project "Smart Working" initiative, which aims to promote flexible working in the investment and savings industry, for example by encouraging the creation of more part-time positions that have previously been in short supply in the industry.
Do you think the pandemic has had a more profound effect on working mothers than on working fathers? If so, why?
What is HSBC doing to make it easier for women to thrive in the post-Covid workplace?
While such opportunities are undoubtedly likely to appeal to women, especially those with children, the overall aim aim is to develop a framework that allows employees of all kinds to prosper: a truly inclusive working environment.
This article is part of a series of articles on diversity and inclusion, produced by Investment Week in association with HSBC Global Asset Management. You can find the full series on a dedicated hub here.
This post was funded by HSBC Asset Management.