Henriett Primecz, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
Not since World War II have there been such substantial changes in social relations and work as those resulting from COVID-19. We still do not see fully the consequences of the global pandemic, but we could clearly observe that it hit global mobility hard. It is, indeed, a significant question if men and women were equally affected. I conducted an interview-based exploratory research with professional women who had international assignments and had children under 12-year.
Findings of this study revealed in contrast with the majority of women who gave up or reduced their international presence radically when they became mothers, the interviewed women maintained their professional life at international level. Women found their work arrangements before the restrictions difficult, but all of them were enthusiastic about their work and thought it was worth investing energy in the complicated arrangements of their international assignments.
With lockdowns, work arrangements changed quickly and radically, and interviewees in home office, quickly became overwhelmed with online meetings. They reported with relief that much of their international travel had proven unnecessary.
Whilst the lockdown’s impact on work was significant, its impact on family life was huge. Due to the growing pressure from work and the intention to avoid compromise in parenting, women had no other choice but to reduce or eliminate their own needs, such as individual activities, sports or entertainment, quality time with their partners and even sleep.
Gender equality, which was negotiated before the crisis, had to be readjusted, and external family support (e.g. schools, kindergarten, babysitters, and grandparents) were not available, and in most cases, partners also had demanding jobs. Renegotiation of division of labour within the family were partially successful, and definitely lead to certain compromises in work and in parenting. Nonetheless, survival was the order of the day and they definitely did not wish to live this life in the long term.
Interviews were conducted during the first wave of the restrictions, and future prospects were evaluated at that time. While all of them gave an enthusiastic account of their pre-pandemic work-life, when they were engaged in international projects, they stated almost unambiguously that they will not return to frequent travel. Not only did they realise that a number of tasks can easily be completed online without travel, but also that their fatigue from travel and further exhaustion from their work and lifestyles, not to mention their environmental consciousness, made them hope that they would not travel as much in the future. They believed this will have consequences for everyone as international mobility will decrease. This is a significant consideration for the theory and practice of global mobility.
To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Primecz, H. (2022), "Radical changes in the lives of international professional women with children: from airports to home offices", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 226-241. https://doi.org/10.1108/JGM-03-2021-0029