16 July 2020

New survey data published today by West Midlands Women’s Voice, who promote the role of women in the emerging political and economic climate, and The Fawcett Society, the gender equality campaigning charity, shows that women support local action to tackle the mental health and jobs impacts of Covid-19 in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.

Four in ten women in the West Midlands (37%) and Greater Manchester (39%) say their mental health has got worse since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Almost half (47%) of women in each area said they would be likely to use local high street ‘pop up shops’ for mental health support if they existed. Younger women, BAME women and parents are even more likely to be interested in such an offer.

Almost half of women in the West Midlands (47%) and over four in ten in Greater Manchester (44%) have considered retraining into health and social care during Covid-19. BAME women, younger women, and parents more likely to have given retraining some thought across all fields in both city regions. 44% of women in the West Midlands and 41% in Greater Manchester said they would be likely to use local pop-up skills and retraining centres if they were available.

The research also finds that:

  • Three in ten women in the West Midlands (27%) and Greater Manchester (29%) say that they are ‘struggling or worse off’ financially, compared with 16% and 18% before the crisis.
  • A fifth of women in the West Midlands (20%) and Greater Manchester (21%) said their employability had worsened.
  • Across both city regions, use of public transport, and cars, has fallen under lockdown while 58% of women in the West Midlands and 55% of women in Greater Manchester said they were walking more.

Eight out of ten women in the West Midlands (81%) and Greater Manchester (81%) say their work has changed during the pandemic. A quarter of women (25%) in both city regions have seen their location of work change, with nine out of ten of whom (92% WM, 91% GM) moving to working from home. 28% in the West Midlands and 26% in Greater Manchester have seen their hours change, with the majority (63% and 62%) losing hours.

Impacts have differed by ethnicity - in the West Midlands, 13% of employed Black, Asian and minority ethnicity (BAME) women have seen their pay change compared with 5% of white women, and in Greater Manchester 14% of BAME employed women have experienced two changes in their work compared with 6% of white women.

A fifth of women in the West Midlands (21%) and Greater Manchester (22%) have been furloughed. More women in ‘DE’ social groups, such as those in manual work (33%) are on the scheme than women in AB groups, such as professional or managerial roles (14%) in the West Midlands. More low-income women (30%) compared with higher income (19%) women had been furloughed in Greater Manchester.

The groups are calling for:

  1. Combined Authorities and councils to set up hubs in local high streets to offer support for mental health that is accessible to women
  2. Support for retraining, including into health and social care, for women
  3. Include action on BAME employment and pay gaps in industrial strategies

Sharonjit Clare, Co-founder of West Midlands Women’s Voice, added:

WMWV has driven this research to be sure that the voices of women in the regions could be captured at a pivotal time as we emerge from lockdown and to enable women to steer the often male-dominated economic policy debate. Our three asks of CAs will be a real measure of their covenant to deliver inclusive Covid recovery.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

These findings show the pressures that women, especially BAME women and parents, have been under during lockdown in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester. It is vital that combined authorities, which are still majority-male, listen to women and put in place local, accessible support for mental health. It is encouraging to see social care work getting more recognition, and more women thinking about joining that workforce. We also need to see action urgently from Government to increase pay and improve conditions for our carers.

Pam Smith, Stockport Council Chief Executive, said:

We welcome the findings of this survey, which reinforce the unequal impact of the pandemic across our communities. We are establishing a Women and Girls Panel in Greater Manchester, and the findings of this survey, and other local intelligence we have gathered, will shape our priorities and drive forward the work of the panel.

Deborah Cadman OBE, Chief Executive of West Midlands Combined Authority said:

We welcome this study which provides a much-needed focus on women in the West Midlands. Putting the spotlight on how women have been affected by the pandemic will help shape our recovery plans for the region, which will be more than economic recovery – we also need to reconnect as a community and fundamentally re-think how we live and work.

Key findings:

  • Parents (33% in WM and 39% in GM) and renters (38% and 40%) are more likely to say that financially they are ‘struggling or worse’.
  • Women born outside the UK were more likely to say that their employability had worsened in the West Midlands (33%), while in Greater Manchester 33% of women who have been furloughed said this was the case.
  • Other roles women had thought about retraining into included community and local government (39% WM, 38% GM), entrepreneurial and business (37% and 34%) and improving language skills, including improving English (35% and 34%).
  • 37% of women in WM and 36% of women in GM said their diets had got worse, with working class (DE) women in GM more likely to say this (42%) than those in professional and managerial roles (31%).

Download the full press release