Research from countless organisations over the course of the Covid pandemic has consistently pointed to a hefty gender disparity when it comes to who is bearing the biggest economic burden from the crisis, with repeated warnings that a decade or more of progress on women’s economic empowerment is set to be thrown into reverse.

One of the main reasons cited for this is that the virus increases the load of unpaid domestic care, which is disproportionately carried by women. This, among other factors, means that women’s jobs are more vulnerable than those of men.

The latest in a long string of evidence on this is a recent survey carried out by the Trades Union Congress, which found that nearly one in five working mothers have had to reduce their employment hours during lockdown. Meanwhile, seven out of 10 eligible mothers who have asked for furlough said their request had been refused by their employer.

Faced with intractable demands, many in these circumstances are opting to leave employment entirely. Reflecting on the situation, Carolyn Currie of Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) admits to a sense of despair.

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“It’s always the same,” she says. “The next financial crisis hits and look, oh, it’s women who are at the front of the firing line again.”

While dropping out may make sense in the here and now, many will be looking to get back into work when public life returns to a more stable footing. The question then becomes where are the jobs to be had, as the pandemic appears to have permanently downsized many sectors such as hospitality, tourism and retail, where women accounted for the majority of the workforce.

One seemingly obvious choice would be the technology sector, which is expected to be a major economic growth driver in Scotland for the foreseeable future.

Scotland’s tech industry has a chronic skills shortage, but it also has long-standing difficulties when it comes to attracting and retaining female workers. According to industry body ScotlandIS, 13,300 jobs across the sector went unfilled last year, while just 23.4 per cent of those employed in tech roles were women.

HeraldScotland: Carolyn Currie, chief executive of Women's Enterprise ScotlandCarolyn Currie, chief executive of Women's Enterprise Scotland

“That’s up from 18% two years earlier, so there has been some improvement,” says Heather Donnelly of ScotlandIS. “We are getting more representation in the sector, but there is still a lot to do.”

While much of the gender rebalancing effort is focused on bringing girls through STEM courses at school and higher education, women at more advanced stages in their lives need other routes if they are to avoid missing out on a digitally-driven economic recovery. As part of the Digital Start Fund, ScotlandIS and other organisations are offering several retraining courses. In the case of ScotlandIS, 45% of its candidates are female.

Meanwhile, WES is currently running an over-subscribed leadership programme for women already working in the technology sector. The aim here is to boost retention while getting a larger number of women into senior positions to serve as mentors and role models.

One of those on the course is Glasgow-based Natasha Lindsey, a global account manager for Danish audio solutions specialist Jabra. She believes the changes brought about by the pandemic, with employers more open than ever to flexible working arrangements, will make the tech sector a more appealing option for women.

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“I actually think this could be a really powerful time for women,” she said. “Employers are definitely changing how they work, and that will be very positive.

“We are seeing a big shift in how people are working around those work-life boundaries.”

Ms Currie at WES says tackling gender parity in the technology sector is important for the industry, as it promotes diversity and leads to innovation. Innovation, in turn, will be the hallmark of economies that out-perform in the long run.

Encouraging women into tech-based roles will also be key in countering the regressive effect the pandemic is having on their livelihoods.

“We have an unparalleled opportunity to engage with women in technology and digital skills,” she said. “One of the things about the pandemic is that we have all had to develop our technological skills because that is the way we have to deal with the world right now. It is really important that we keep that momentum up.”