I recently attended a video meeting where a colleague's toddler wandered into the frame. The little girl screeched when told she couldn't be with mummy at the moment. A caregiver picked up the child, who continued protesting as she was carried off-screen.
It was a reminder of how Covid-19 has highlighted discrepancies in the work world for men and women.
While many male partners take on some child-rearing responsibilities, women still do most of the heavy lifting at home. Women lucky enough to have continued working through lockdown 1.0 nationwide and lockdown 2.0 in Auckland often had to juggle jobs, supervise online schooling and/or caring for children too young to realise Mummy can't lead a meeting while bubs is calling for attention.
Thankfully we've become chilled out about these things. We're used to interruptions on screen, to muted and unmuted microphones, to the peculiarities of home internet that chooses to go on strike when we can least afford to be without it.
The latest jobs report from Statistics NZ shows 90 per cent of Kiwis who've lost jobs so far due to the pandemic are women. Numbers out earlier this month show 10,000 women make up the 11,000 people who are unemployed.
Experts say reasons for over-representation in unemployment among women stem partly from the fact more women than men hold part-time jobs, and positions in retail and hospitality.
More women also fall into the under-utilisation jobs category, working fewer hours than they'd like to. Some people have dubbed it a "she-session", but the term undercuts the fact Covid-19 has impacted everyone.
Government help has arrived via wage subsidies (ending soon) and an injection of cash into infrastructure schemes.
When we consider "shovel-ready" projects - the $3 billion the Government is dispensing from its Covid-19 response and recovery fund - they mostly support industries where a small percentage of workers are female.
Think roading and construction. By contrast, Germany has unveiled a €50 billion (roughly $89b) aid package that'll help artists and galleries. Artnet.com quotes culture minister Monika Grütters saying government understands the hardships and desperation felt by people in creative industries. "The cultural sector, in particular, is characterized by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods." Funding will come in the form of grants designed to help with overhead costs like venue rentals and artist studios.
One of the most gender-segregated professions in New Zealand is early childhood education. An estimated 98 per cent of ECE teachers are women. Historically, it hasn't paid well. The Government in July raised the minimum salary for early childhood education centre teachers to nearly $50,000, bringing their pay in line with kindergarten teachers. It's a start.
We can advise everyone to follow the money, but not everyone wants to sling a hammer or fix brakes.
Not only do we need more women in apprenticeships for trades with higher income potential such as construction, plumbing and the automotive industry, we also need to be willing to pay fair wages for "pink-collar" jobs - those traditionally dominated by females. The educator jobs. Caregiving jobs. Jobs in non-profits. Society would crumble if we didn't have people to fill these roles. It's worth asking if we value having our leaky sink fixed as much as we value our children or grandchildren's education during their most formative years. It's worth asking if it's okay to pay service workers in the aged care sector at or around the minimum wage.
What if we poured Covid-19 recovery money into community organisations, social work, aged care and non-profits? It's putting funding into the heart of our towns to improve all of society, not just building another road that'll reach capacity several months after it's finished.
People who've lost jobs in the hospitality sector may need to retrain for a career better able to withstand a pandemic, such as positions in primary industries like agriculture and horticulture. Some of these career-shifters will be women, but if historic patterns hold, most will be men.
The number one factor contributing to job satisfaction, according to many surveys, is pay. Offer all the perks you want; if you don't pay staff fairly, they won't be happy, no matter how many free coffees or team-building exercises on offer.
This strange time offers a chance to re-envision our future, to discern whose work we value and how to make that work more equitable for everyone.