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2021 opportunities & threats: inequality, mental health, environment

Kevin Sneader, Global Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company, provides perspective on what corporate business leaders are thinking during the global coronavirus crisis:

What are the opportunities and threats on the horizon for 2021?

Now, given the pandemic is still raging, it's hard to narrow the threats and opportunities down, but here are three threats and three opportunities. One, a growing likelihood of increased inequality on several fronts. Gender, since a quarter of women in work we recently did with LeanIn.org were either contemplating leaving or taking time out of the workforce. This reached 40% for those with young children. Race, since Black Americans have seen their jobs disappear at a far greater rate than their white counterparts. And income, since COVID deaths are 4 to 5 times higher among the unemployed and are concentrated in jobs that have been hardest hit. The second threat, mental health. The signs are increasing that this is the other side of the health threat that the virus poses. And three, the environment. They need to ensure a green rather than brown recovery at a time when money is tight.

On the opportunities, first off, flexibility in working through remote and other forms of working that are now happening. Secondly, innovation; we've seen more startups this year being started than in any year before. And lastly, the environment; for all that I said there is a risk of a brown recovery, policy makers and businesses alike in much of the world assuring they're prepared to invest behind the business case for a green recovery.

The pandemic is hurting women more than men

At the outset of the pandemic earlier this year, people in high places said that the coronavirus was shaping up to be the "great equalizer." But, in fact, the twin health and economic effects of the pandemic have been anything but equal. The poor have suffered and died more than the rich. Ethnic minorities in Europe and the US have borne the brunt. Pre-existing inequalities have been exposed, and deepened, by the disease.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the pandemic's disproportionate impact on women. What are the particular challenges for women in this crisis, and what does recovery look like for over half of the world's population?

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