Amazon- Jo Bevilacqua‘s No Longer Last on the List

No Longer Last on the List, helping you through the pandemic

The COVID pandemic could wipe our 25 years of increasing gender equality – women have to stop being last on the list of priorities

Writing a book had been on my list of life goals for years. The first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK in 2020 was the catalyst I needed to stop saying “One day” about my ambition and start saying “Today!”

No Longer Last on the List is the result. 

While the book isn’t specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic, I do feel that the climate in which it was written provides an important context. 

The last 12 months have served to highlight and magnify many of the issues that women face on a daily basis. No Longer Last on the List is my contribution to this conversation. In many ways a call to women to claim their seat at the post-COVID table so that their voices can be heard.

Below, I wanted to talk about this context more.

The ‘sacrificial lambs’ of the COVID pandemic?

As schools closed, jobs were furloughed. It was clear that women made up the majority of essential frontline ‘keyworkers’ (the World Health Organisation estimates that women comprise 70% of the global health workforce, but hold only 25% of its leadership positions), it became obvious to me that women would be disproportionately affected by what was about to unfold.

My instincts proved right. 

By July 2020, a report from Catalyst – a group that supports the rights of women in the workplace – found that 77% of women were working in jobs considered ‘high risk’ of contracting COVID-19. The same report found that women are five percent more likely to have lost their job due to the pandemic.

Also in July 2020, an article in The Guardian referred to the UK’s working mothers as the ‘sacrificial lambs’ of COVID as approximately 50% of us had been unable to access the childcare needed to return to work. 

Data shows that 67% of working mums have had to reduce their hours to cover childcare. 74% of self-employed mums have seen their incomes plummet due to having to split their attention between working and home-schooling.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (as reported by The Guardian in July 2020) found that, in homes where both parents were working from home or had been furloughed, women were spending an hour and a quarter longer per day looking after their children than men. 

The division of labour seems to be fairly equal for home-schooling, playing or reading with children, but women were – and continue to be – the default parent when it came to washing, feeding and dressing children. 

As a consequence, women were able to spend less time on paid work than their male partners.


Wiping out 25 years of increasing gender equality

As the pandemic has continued, the gender divide seems to have grown.

In November 2020, UN Women released a new report: Whose time to care: Unpaid care and domestic work during COVID-19. 

Looking at data from 38 different countries, the report concluded that, while both men and women have seen an increase in their unpaid workloads, women are doing the lion’s share across the globe.

The reality of the pandemic is that many women are having to leave paid employment to care for and home-school their children and/or care for elderly, vulnerable relatives.

For me, the starkest warning of the report is that the pandemic could “wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality in just 12 months”. 

Even before COVID, the report confirms what most of us already knew. Women were the ones carrying the invisible burden of unpaid domestic chores, childcare, caring for relatives and generally organising the lives of their families.

In fact, the report shows that women were doing around three-quarters of the 16 billion hours of unpaid work carried out around the world every single day.

Pre- COVID, the UK was one of the so-called ‘fairer’ countries in the world, with women doing approximately 1.8 times more unpaid care work and chores than men. Compare this to Japan, for example, where women were already doing 4.8 times more unpaid work than their male counterparts!

According to the Whose time to care report, these statistics are likely to have doubled throughout the world since March 2020.


Millions of women have had to leave paid employment

Due to the unpaid responsibilities falling on their shoulders, many women are simply unable to return to their jobs. 

Stats show that, in America, for example, 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce in September 2020 alone, compared to 200,000 men. 

According to data compiled by Catalyst, three million women in America have had to leave their paid employment over the last 12 months but, staggeringly, these numbers are not counted in unemployment figures. In this way, these women are invisible casualties of the pandemic. 

And the longer a woman is out of the workforce, the harder it is for her to get back in.

These discrepancies are even greater for single mothers.

As women are side-lined from the work force and pushed into more domestic responsibilities, there is no doubt that we will see a lasting impact on female finances, independence and mental health.


No Longer Last on the List

As I’ve mentioned above, it was against this backdrop that I wrote my book, No Longer Last on the List.

I wanted to explore some of the challenges and pressures women face in today’s world, many of which have been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic, covid. More importantly, what we can do to overcome these challenges.

Women, in particular, are programmed by society to believe that self-sacrifice is a desirable trait or behaviour. Our identities are often framed within motherhood (even if we’re not mothers), or as care givers to vulnerable loved ones. As a result, many of us automatically put ourselves right at the bottom of our list of priorities.

And no-one bats an eyelid!

The kernel of the idea for the book came at the beginning of 2020 when, in a mastermind group, just two women put themselves at the top of the list when I asked everyone to rank their priorities in life. These women only did this because they had suffered burnout or health problems in the past.

How awful is it that we have to become ill before we can prioritise our own needs?

And what kind of example does this set to others?

Now, we face the prospect that many women, particularly those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, will – as a consequence of the pandemic – have a steeper hill to climb in terms of realising their own needs.

No Longer Last on the List is about the tools we need to actuate change.


My five favourite tips from No Longer Last

I want to share five of my favourite tips/activities from No Longer Last on the List. These are things that have helped me to leave paid employment and set up three award-winning businesses, all while raising a family.

  • Name your dreams

What do you want to achieve in life? What would you regret not achieving? Are you striving for the things that really matter to you?

In my own life, I knew that if I didn’t open a beauty salon with an on-site crèche, I would regret that decision until my dying breath. I was so passionate about this business existing, it was all I could think about.

Once I knew what I wanted to achieve, every decision I made was based on what would take me a step closer to realising my goal. 

What do you feel this strongly about? Name it. Write it down. Talk about it as though it’s already happened. Visualise it every day as if you can see yourself achieving your dreams. 

A limiting belief is a belief that you hold on to that limits you or holds you back in some way. Limiting beliefs often come from other people or from bad experiences we’ve had in life. Thoughts like I’m not good enough, it’s not possible for someone like me, I’m not clever enough are all common limiting beliefs.

Often, when we feel emotional resistance to something we want, it’s because a limiting belief is blocking us.

Write down a list of your limiting beliefs and where you think they might have come from. Your next step is to challenge them. What makes your limiting belief a lie?

  • Choose quality over quantity

For many of us, our home and work lives are overlapping right now and it’s easy for boundaries to get blurred. You might feel you have to be the best employee while wondering how on earth you’re meant to home school your kids for five or six hours a day.

And what about providing your children with the emotional support they need or opportunities to have fun throughout the day when you have a deadline looming?

My advice? You don’t have to be all-singing, all-dancing to everyone in your life all of the time. Quality time is far more important than quantity. 

Get your children to do chores – they might not like it now but they’ll thank you for it in the end. Let your kids feel bored. Give your dog a day off walks and set up some enrichment activities in the house instead so you can take a break.

Set aside time where you focus solely on work without interruptions and then earmark when you need to be present for home-schooling. The key is to set boundaries and stick to them.

  • Control the controllables

For me, this is probably the most important message of No Longer Last on the List and the most pertinent to protecting my mental health during a global pandemic.

So much in life is beyond our control. We can’t change how people think or how they behave. We can’t change things like lockdowns or furloughs or daily press briefings. What we can change or control is how we act and respond.

So, I want you to write down everything that’s on your mind right now, no matter how big or small. What are the things on the list that you can influence? What is within your power to control?

Write a to-do list that focuses on these controllables?

What is left on your original list of worries? The chances are that these things are beyond your control. You may be telling yourself stories that will never come to pass or imagining other people’s thoughts without ever being able to know them. It’s time to let these things go!

  • Plan for success

The truth of life is that time will pass, whatever we do. Surely, it’s better to use our time doing what we love?

I know that’s easier said than done. Time can run away from us.

To prevent this as much as possible, I’m a big believer in planning for success. Every day, I write down one thing I must do, as well as three slightly smaller goals. I break big goals down into micro-actions that enable me to make and track my progress. I set monthly goals, quarterly goals, yearly goals and more. Crucially, I make time to review them so I always stay on course for what I want to achieve.

This approach is the reason I’ve been able to build three successful businesses. It’s the reason I could change careers or write a book. It’s the reason I feel excited about the future, even in this strangest of times.

You can do it too.

No Longer Last on the List is available in paperback or for Kindle via Amazon.


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