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Pandemic-induced challenges widened the gender gap for female analysts, research finds

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a persistent challenge facing the business world – the gender gap. A recent study found that women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic than men’s jobs.

From having to shoulder a greater share of childcare and household duties to 2.4 million women leaving the workforce as compared to 1.8 million men, the impact of the pandemic on women has only compounded the challenges they face in business.

A new study from the University of Florida Warrington College of Business highlights a job sector where women’s work was negatively impacted by COVID-19 – financial analysts.

Baolian Wang

Bank of America Assistant Professor of Finance Baolian Wang

Bank of America Assistant Professor of Finance Baolian Wang and Singapore Management University’s Frank Weikai Li found that female analyst forecast errors increased more than those of men during the early stages of the pandemic. Specifically, the errors among women analysts increased during the time when schools were closed and were among analysts who were more likely to have young children as well as those who were inexperienced, busier before the pandemic and lived in southern states, where women are expected to do more of the childcare and household work.

“Our findings suggest that the increased childcare and household duties disproportionately fell on the shoulders of women, even among financial professionals and in a sector where females are known to have superior skills,” Wang said.

The good news, Wang and Li note, is that the widening gender gap that began around March 2020 had largely dissipated by May and June 2020.

While women analysts were able to rebound from their forecasting errors, the authors suggest there’s a solution for brokerage companies and beyond to protect their female employees from outside challenges that impact their work.

“The direct implication of our work is that brokerage companies should consider gender and household duties when evaluating their employees,” Wang said. “Our finding that childcare and household duties negatively affect mothers’ productivity has broader implications. Employers, not only brokerage firms, may consider helping female employees (or any employee doing childcare and household work). Such an arrangement may be mutually beneficial to both the employees and employer through increased productivity.”