As I described in my last article, women – especially women of color – have been disproportionately impacted by job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to data from McKinsey & Company, women accounted for 56% of people leaving the workforce since February 2020. This has turned back the clock for women in terms of their gains in leadership and pay equity. And it has widened the opportunity gap for women of color, many of whom were employed in the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as hospitality and care.
This issue should be a concern not only for the women who have felt forced to leave the labor pool, but also for companies that could potentially employ them. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, gender-diverse teams have higher sales and profits compared to male-dominated teams, and gender-diverse business units have higher average revenue than less diverse business units. Furthermore, a higher percentage of women in an organization predicts:
- More job satisfaction
- More organizational dedication
- More meaningful work, and
- Less burnout.
Fortunately, some companies are recognizing the gap that fewer women in the workforce will leave and are trying to address it. One example is Google, who recently announced an initiative to provide 100,000 Black women with career development and digital skills training by Spring 2022. The initiative is part of a $15 million commitment by Google to help Black job seekers grow their digital skills. The program will include training in resume writing, interviewing, online marketing and more.
A number of other large companies offer a variety of return-to-work programs for women who have left the workforce to raise their children or to care for an aging loved one.
What can you, as a small or medium sized company, do to create an environment that attracts and retains women? Here are some ideas:
Be clear about expectations and performance standards. The date when schools will fully open for in-person learning is still uncertain in many areas. This adds to the mounting stress for parents who may be worried about whether they will be required to go back to the office before their children go back to school. Or whether they will be able to secure childcare in time. Be as specific as possible about your return-to-office plans and give an adequate amount of lead time (and flexibility) to accommodate parental needs.
Implement flexible scheduling. Be creative about work hours, taking into consideration that during normal work hours parents, especially moms, may also be supporting their child’s distance learning or caring for an infant who would normally be in childcare. Consider allowing evening or weekend hours in place of daytime hours (not in addition to!) when the other parent or a relative/friend may be able to provide childcare support.
Practice empathy. Demonstrate that you understand that moms are going through a lot right now as they try to juggle work, distance learning support, and domestic responsibilities that traditionally fall to them. Make time for individual check-ins and co-create options that will ease the burden while continuing to advance the work. Assess priorities. Maybe the less critical goals can wait.
Don’t forget that that I will be participating in a panel discussion during a webinar – Professional Women Returning to Work – on Thursday, March 25, hosted by Phase2 Careers. You can register for the program here. Learn more about Phase2 Careers by visiting their website.
I hope you will join us!