The gender gap has been widened by coronavirus, which is why the EU is listening and acting on this inequality to feed into scientific research and future policy proposals.

Here are three stories from across the Union.



Michèle Tertilt

Michèle Tertilt © dfg ausserhofer, 2019

This is Michèle Tertilt. She’s a professor of Economics at the University of Mannheim in Germany and the principal investigator of a six-year EU-funded project called GENDERMACRO. The project investigates how economic trends affect men and women differently.

Once the pandemic began, the project researchers applied their findings to the new situation. Their work revealed stark differences between men and women in the areas of employment, telework, childcare and home-schooling.

For example, the loss of jobs due to social distancing measures has disproportionately affected sectors with more women. There is also a significant impact on working women and single mothers, as the closures of schools and daycare centres continue to massively increase childcare needs. Moreover, women are overrepresented on the frontline in the fight against the virus. In the EU, they represent 76% of healthcare workers, roughly 90% of workers in childcare and care of the elderly, and 95% of domestic cleaners and helpers.

“We need to take gender and family out of the black box and integrate it into research so that we can have better-informed science and better-informed policy”.
The Netherlands

The Netherlands

Professor Sabine Oertelt-Prigione © Radboudumc, 2017

Professor Sabine Oertelt-Prigione © Radboudumc, 2017

Professor Sabine Oertelt-Prigione is an expert in gender-sensitive medicine at Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and a member of an EU expert group on gender issues. She led the group’s recent study “The impact of sex and gender in the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

It turns out that a person’s sex has an impact on the body’s immunological response and response to therapies. Gender, on the other hand, matters when it comes to the risk of exposure to the virus, and the long-term socio-economic consequences in the areas of employment, domestic abuse and inequality.

The report highlights that even if more men than women die of acute infection, social factors contribute to women being more at risk of contracting coronavirus as they’re more likely to work in professions that depend on close contact.

Even the design of protective clothing does not sufficiently take into account body shape differences between men and women.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, in all its tragedy, is clearly demonstrating the impact of sex and gender on health at all levels.”


Gwendoline Lefebvre

Gwendoline Lefebvre © European Womens Lobby, 2020

This is Gwendoline Lefebvre. She’s president of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), an EU-funded organisation representing 2,000 women’s groups. It is the largest European organisation of this kind.

The lobby ensures women’s perspectives are represented at the highest level of European and international decision making. Gwendoline and her team also have an advisory role at the Council of Europe and the UN Economic and Social Council.


EWL Group © European Womens Lobby, 2020

“Despite the huge contribution made by women during the crisis, domestic violence against women increased in lockdown, women in precarious work situations faced an even stronger risk of poverty, and women were pushed back into the traditional roles of primary carer and housekeeper.”

How can the EU help?

“The crisis has made it even more visible that equality between women and men has not yet been achieved in our societies,” says Gwendoline.

So, what is the EU doing to bridge the gap? The Horizon Europe (2021-2027) programme will integrate gender into research and innovation across the board, and will continue to listen to the experiences of women.

In its recovery plan, the European Commission proposes an inclusive strategy that addresses gender equality, for example, by making pay transparent. In the action we take to overcome the crisis and beyond, no one, whatever their gender, will be left behind.