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The impact of COVID-19 on women in the workplace

The impact of COVID-19 on women in the workplace

Report after report has revealed the impact of  COVID-19 on women at work. Without a doubt, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women’s careers in ways that could be felt for years to come. The industries hardest hit happen to also be predominantly ones in which women work. Plus, with millions of school children learning from home, it’s most typically been women who’ve put their work aside to assume the extra caregiving/education support roles in the home.

Our free ebook takes a deep dive into workforce weaknesses revealed by the COVID-19 crisis and how companies can help women regain lost ground during the pandemic.

COVID-19’s impact on women

From February to December 2020, about 4.3 million women in the U.S. dropped
out of the workforce, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And 2.1 million of them have given up looking for work altogether. “Companies who are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion will reach a greater gender imbalance if they do not take immediate steps to attract and retain women,” says Audra Jenkins, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Randstad North America.

Other research from the U.S. Census released last August revealed that women between the ages of 25-44 were nearly three times more likely than men to say that COVID-related disruption of childcare was why they weren’t working.

“Women are the population most challenged right now as they struggle with virtual school, daycares being closed, and not being able to rely on family to help because of quarantine restrictions. The more companies that refuse to make this a priority, the more we will see the numbers escalate of women dropping out of the workforce.”

The global effect of the pandemic on women

But let’s not think that all women’s workplace woes are symptoms of the coronavirus. For all the talk of shattering glass ceilings, there were challenges on the horizon long before the pandemic.

According to the World Economic Forum, 57% of women worldwide are at risk of being displaced by automation. And as per the McKinsey Global Institute, an estimated 40 to 160 million women will need reskilling to transition into available jobs by 2030. “The number one action that companies can do now is to reskill talent to retain women,” says Jenkins.

There’s also a promotion problem across the globe. Women only held 28% of managerial positions globally in 2019, and among Fortune 500 corporations, only 7.4% had female CEOs. For women of color, the reality is typically even more dismal.

“There is progress being made at junior levels of organizations but as you get further up, it’s still predominately male-dominated,” says Barnes.

What women need

In addition to empowerment, acknowledgment, and confidence, women in the workforce need real policies and benefits that put them on an even playing field with male colleagues.

Gender Pay Equity

Monster’s survey found that globally, 4 in 10 employers are prioritizing gender pay equality. And it’s a good thing, considering the World Economic Forum 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, finding that it will take nearly 100 years before we see gender parity.

Workplace Flexibility

Flexible work styles were always important for working women raising families, but never more so than in the last year. “I use myself as an example. I’m a mom of an 8-year-old daughter who is in lockdown at the moment. The person she will come to most is me,” says Barnes. “That’s fine because I work in an environment where my peers accept that. It’s important for leaders to show that that’s OK.”

Training and Development Opportunities

There are a few key things that employers can do to level the playing field, says Jenkins. For starters, sponsorship and mentorship programs can help the development and advancement of diverse employees. “Companies should identify high-potential diverse employees that are promoted as a result of sponsorship and mentorship and find ways to amplify those actions. Access to C-Suite leaders is critical for women and other diverse groups to advance,” says Jenkins.

Want to learn what else you can do to help support women? Download our free e-book to learn more.