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‘During lockdown, working women inherited more roles than before’

Home working has propelled sector towards less stressful professional practices

Lockdown has developed trust across the ecosystem. Companies value their workers and are prepared to adopt structured flexibility. Photograph: Getty Images

Lockdown has developed trust across the ecosystem. Companies value their workers and are prepared to adopt structured flexibility. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Dr Marina Efthymiou is the course director for DCU’s MSc in aviation leadership, and an advocate for women and diversity in this male-dominated sector. She points out that the impacts of remote working have more strongly disadvantaged women than men.

“During lockdown, working women inherited more roles than before, perhaps home schooling, definitely more house chores – and then their job on top. There are very few, if any, senior female leaders in the leasing and finance space, so it is near-impossible for male managers to comprehend the increased pressure,” she says.

Dr Efthymiou concedes that the pandemic generally created more pressure on all workers who, while forgoing any commutes, often found themselves working longer hours.

‘Burnt-out executives’

“I don’t think the aviation leasing and finance industry were looking to exploit workers, far from it, and they upped the ante when it came to looking after their people. The industry has a very good track record for supporting its key personnel and I witnessed a number of initiatives related to mindfulness programmes. No one wants burnt-out executives.”

One benefit of the move to online communications during lockdown was that it consolidated the geographically dispersed worker population, according to Dr Efthymiou. “Previously, people would have to travel for meetings, on a global scale, to facilitate work. When it was pushed to online, it allowed for less travel for individuals. This was generally a good thing.”

Zoom etiquette was another challenge for the industry with people having to learn how to read cues from a screen.

Body language

“Body language, as it sounds, covers the body, not just the face and shoulders. Everything is much more nuanced when faced with a flat screen. And sometimes people attend with their camera and mic turned off and it is hard to know the level of their participation. And then of course is the famous Zoom fatigue where meeting after meeting is organised with less breaks than physical meetings.”

Niamh O’Brien is director in talent for BDO, and sees the reversal of “presentism”.

“This industry is highly pressurised, but lockdown has developed trust across the ecosystem. Companies value their workers and are prepared to adopt structured flexibility – this is especially valuable for any expats in the workforce who may now be able to spend large chunks of time working in their home country. It’s a win-win for everyone,” she says.