Griffith academics have warned that women have borne the brunt of COVID-19, from increased childcare responsibilities at home to challenges accessing domestic violence support and job losses in female-dominated sectors like retail and hospitality.

A host of Griffith University game-changers discussed the impact of the pandemic on women and girls at this year’s global Women of the World (WOW) Festival.

Professor Carolyn Evans

Griffith University Vice Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans joined a line-up of world leaders, policymakers, writers and performers for WOW Global 24, delivering a speech on the impact of COVID-19 on the education of girls and women.

“In many countries where the commitment to girls education isn’t terribly profound, that moment of interruption can be incredibly dangerous,” Professor Evans said.

“We’ve been very concerned about the unequal impact that this virus has had, even in a privileged country like Australia.

“The impact globally will be potentially catastrophic if we don’t pay great attention to those who traditionally miss out on education – girls and women.”

Professor Evans discussed the diverse community that Griffith serves, and highlighted efforts to help vulnerable students, including the provision of more than $3 million in bursaries to date, introducing a computer loan program and providing meals and groceries.

Professor Evans also highlighted some of the positives to come out of the pandemic, including the role of universities in building a fairer, more equitable society.

“We are taking this opportunity to recreate society on the other side of this pandemic, not just replicating the same patterns of disadvantage and exclusion.”

Professor Ingrid Burkett

Griffith Business School Dean (Engagement) Professor Anne Tiernan and Yunus Centre Co-Director Professor Ingrid Burkett joined a panel to discuss the disproportionate financial impact of the pandemic on girls and women, and the road to economic recovery after COVID-19.

“Like all crises, this pandemic has exacerbated inequalities,” Professor Burkett said.

“Some people have referred to this particular recession as a pink collar recession, because it has had a severe impact on female-dominated industries like retail and hospitality.

“At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen the issue of over-work in sectors like healthcare, social assistance and education, that are also typically dominated by women.

“There is also evidence that women are carrying a heavier burden at home during lockdowns, often taking on the care of children and older parents.”

The panel also discussed the potential for government stimulus packages to address social inequalities.

“These big stimulus packages will shape the future of our market, so it’s about using that money to create fairer and more inclusive economies,” Professor Burkett said.

Griffith Law School Associate Professor Susan Harris-Rimmer spoke about how COVID-19 had impacted the rights of girls and women, and Griffith University’s MATE (Motivating Action Through Empowerment) program was invited to run online workshops as part of the festival.

The annual WOW Festival, for which Griffith is an official partner, was forced to move online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Anne Tiernan

The free 24-hour event centered round six themes – health, money, justice, violence, climate and education. A series of interviews, panels and performances showcased efforts to create a fairer post-pandemic world.

Professor Tiernan said the it aligned with Griffith’s long-held commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Our partnership with WOW has helped educate the community and explore issues and conversations affecting women.”

“This festival has allowed us to bring our value-aligned expertise to a global audience.”

WOW Australia Executive Producer Cathy Hunt said Griffith’s strong commitment to social justice and gender equality was a driving force behind the partnership.

“When it came to issues of justice and human rights, an innovative approach to research and teaching and an understanding of the cultural sector, Griffith University was the obvious choice,” she said.

“Griffith academics, alumni and institutional partners across Australia and the Pacific are important in helping shape the conversations we need to have.

“The festival showcased the excellent work that Griffith is doing promoting gender equality and some of the amazing women who are part of the University.”