Women with younger children, single parents and the self-employed are among the most severely impacted by the pandemic, Roberta Lepre stressed.

Dr Lepre, the founder of Weave Consulting, took part in this morning’s episode of The Boardroom which discussed how women have been impacted by COVID-19.

An IMF blog argued that the pandemic threatens to roll back 30 years of gains women have achieved for equality.

Asked about what people in those situations should do if they are feeling overwhelmed and are struggling to get by, Dr Lepre conceded that it is a complex question as each person’s circumstances are different.

She added, however, that the biggest step remains reaching out to communicate with people from your personal or professional network.

For those women who are employed, Dr Lepre said that a frank discussion with the company’s HR department is the way forward when discussing support needed.

“It is important to be clear about how you are feeling, and to ask for help if you need it”. Dr Lepre said that this does, however, come with a caveat. She said that while stories of employers providing support have been plenty, she stressed how important it is to remember that employers are also human, who could be under immense pressure too.

“We need to be fair, we need to ask for help and we also need to be flexible in terms of giving our bit too.”

Turning to those who are self-employed, Dr Lepre highlighted how tricky such situations are, because self-employed persons are often quite isolated in their lives and in their work. She said that here, it is imperative to connect with friends, family, or other professionals.

She shared her next project, the development of a project called Core Platform. Dr Lepre explained that this is a programme which was not the result of COVID, but the result of acknowledging the need for more women in decision-making roles locally.

“To this end, we are developing and launching a programme where we mentor women, who then become part of a network intended to provide this kind of support and mentorship to any women seeking guidance”.

A crowdfunding drive for the project is expected to be launched soon.

Asked for her key take-away message after six months of dealing with this new world-order, Dr Lepre struck a decidedly positive tone.

“Today, we focused a lot on the challenges we are facing, and, I say this genuinely: I think COVID has provided a lot of opportunities for those who can actually see them and harness them.

“For a long time, for example, we have been pushing for more teleworking, now it is there and it has become very normal – I feel that this is a positive thing.

“Even if you are in a business or are thinking of setting one up, you now have the whole world at your fingertips. COVID sped up digitalisation across the board and it is easier now to reach out to markets, even those outside of Malta.

“Perhaps you have been wanting to take a course or invest in yourself, all you need to do now is switch on your laptop and the opportunities are there. Let’s take a good look around us and harness what’s available.”

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