More women than men have asked for flexible hours to look after their children during the pandemic, according to a survey by employers group Ibec.

One third of firms also said that more women than men had requested unpaid leave to facilitate caring responsibilities.

The findings confirm the concerns that Covid has the potential to regress hard-earned progress in gender equality at work.

Dr Kara McGann, Head of Social Policy with Ibec, said that historically, women are disproportionately impacted by crises, disasters, and societal disruption, and Covid-19 checks all those boxes.

"Our survey findings confirm that Covid-19 has accentuated long standing gender imbalances across several dimensions, threatening hard won markers of gender equity," she said.

"The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic," she added.

The survey findings will be published at a special Ibec Global event this afternoon that will share insights from international thought leaders on what we collectively need to do to achieve goals for gender equality and to unlock massive financial, human and societal benefits.

The Ibec survey, carried out in March, reveals that 20% of organisations had noticed a change in the position of women in their organisations over the past 12 months, citing changes such as increased pressure and stress for women, childcare responsibilities, and requests from women for worktime flexibility to accommodate childcare and/or eldercare.

While Covid has undoubtedly impacted the caring responsibilities of many workers, the Ibec research reveals that almost half of respondents (48%) said that more women than men had requested for changes to their working patterns to facilitate caring responsibilities.

The survey also shows that 31% of respondents said that more of their female employees than their male counterparts had requested unpaid leave to facilitate caring responsibilities over the past 12 months.

A key factor in women's progression within organisations is the visibility of their input to colleagues and managers.

"Our survey also reveals that one fifth of companies intend to introduce increased supports to women over the next 12 months.

"However, if equality is the goal, we need to shift to an equity agenda that ensures we are putting the right measures in place to actively correct the historical wrongs and systemic barriers that leave women and gender diverse people behind and provide them with the tools and support they need to thrive," Dr McGann said.