Celebrating phenomenal mums and childcare professionals on International Women’s Day

There is no doubt that the past year has been a challenging time for everyone due to Covid-19, but the pandemic has had a significant impact on women in particular. Women are more likely than men to have been working in the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19 economically (such as retail and hospitality) and HM Treasury figures show that more women than men have been furloughed by their employer. While balancing working, childcare and home schooling has been difficult for most parents, this has had a disproportionately negative impact on women. The Northern Ireland Childcare Survey 2020 shows that 61% of mothers had to balance working alongside childcare responsibilities and that mothers (48%) were more likely than fathers (28%) to have adjusted their working hours to manage childcare.

Yet, despite these challenges the past year has shone a spotlight on the phenomenal contribution that women make to society, across all sectors, but particularly in childcare. When the advice from Government at the start of the pandemic was to ‘stay home and stay safe’ many childminders, predominantly women, were opening up their homes to provide vital childcare for the children of key workers, despite the increased risk to them and their families. Similarly, childcare professionals whose normal place of work was closed, volunteered to become Approved Home Childcarers and provide childcare in the homes of key workers, which enabled them to continue to work, at such a critical time, particularly for our health service.

Speaking about the contribution their childcare providers had made, in enabling them to continue to work throughout Covid-19, parents told us:

            “My childminder was fantastic in looking after my boys throughout COVID.”

“My childminder was willing to stay open as long as no one had symptoms, she extended her usual time to allow me to go to work as my shift pattern changed, I am truly grateful she let this happen to enable me to work.”

This International Women’s Day therefore provides a welcome opportunity to recognise the amazing women who are the backbone of our childcare infrastructure. Aoife Hamilton, Head of Charity Services at Employers For Childcare, comments: “Today we celebrate all the phenomenal women who have gone above and beyond this year to juggle childcare, home schooling and work. We also celebrate women in the childcare sector, who have shown much resilience and strength, by continuing to provide high-quality childcare throughout the pandemic and putting children first. We are so proud to have an amazing childcare sector in Northern Ireland and that women are at the very centre of providing this high quality service.”

Recognising that we have an opportunity to learn from the pandemic, Aoife continues: “Having seen this year, more than ever, just how important childcare is for women we are using this International Women’s Day to call for action on their behalf – to ensure Northern Ireland has an accessible and affordable childcare infrastructure, and a Childcare Strategy that can work for all – families, childcare providers and society as a whole. This is particularly important for mothers who need access to affordable childcare in order to get into and stay in the workforce, training or education, and for the women who work across the sector. This is really the first step in ‘building back better’ in our road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and a fitting action to celebrate phenomenal women across Northern Ireland.”

Find out more about our research

You can read the full Northern Ireland Childcare Survey 2020 here.

Employers For Childcare was pleased to present the findings of the research at a webinar, organised by the Women’s Policy Group and the Childcare for All campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day, highlighting the negative economic impact of Covid-19 on women. You can watch the webinar on ‘Childcare, Covid-19 and Women: One Year On’ here.