In a year unlike any other, companies have an opportunity and obligation to step up and create a better future for women at work. To celebrate International Women’s Day, our team at Diversio wants to help companies walk the talk, by sharing three key recommendations for building an equitable and inclusive workplace for women.
Working Women in the COVID-19 Era
With COVID-19 pushing the world ten years back in gender equality progress, the economic toll of the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, especially women of color. According to McKinsey, more than one third of working mothers are considering either exiting the workforce or downshifting their careers. Even in today’s world, the burden of childcare and housework tends to fall more heavily on the shoulders of women, and balancing all these acts alongside work is no small feat.
Furthermore, although economic recovery from COVID-19-fuelled job loss has been on the rise, minority women in particular have struggled to return to work. In Canada for one example, 80% of jobs which had been lost at the worst heights of the pandemic had been recouped by the end of 2020; however, the unemployment rate for minority women remained disproportionately high at 10.5% in November 2020. One reason for this is rooted in systematic disadvantages which minority women experience — ranging from a lack of network development to insufficient support systems.
At the management level, the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19 on women may only exist to exasperate existing leadership gaps. In 2020, just 85 women were promoted to manager for every 100 men. With a number of women having to make career sacrifices due to the pandemic, career development will be a challenge moving forward. Not only is it more difficult to balance work alongside other commitments for many women, but it is even harder to network with peers during COVID-19.
How Can Companies Step Up and Help?
Despite these challenges, organizations have an opportunity to step up and craft a more equitable future for women at work. Making investments today will yield long-term benefits through creating an inclusive culture where all employees can thrive. Beyond ensuring that employees are satisfied, attention to gender equality at work enables organizations to tackle long-standing issues like leadership diversity gaps and diversity in recruiting pipelines.
To help strive towards gender equality at work, companies should first look into offering more flexible work options. Programs like a child care subsidy or a pandemic leave of absence can help ease the burden of the “second shift” that many working mothers face at home. From a mentorship and networking perspective, offering a support circles program — where women have a community to share their struggles and receive advice — can provide a much-needed support system. Finally, from an inclusive culture perspective, using anonymous employee surveys allows organizations to gauge how employees are feeling at work, and proactively identify any pain points for women.
Even before COVID-19, achieving gender equality across the globe was projected to take 100 years by the World Economic Forum. Although the pandemic has thrown a wrench in the works, it also serves as an important reminder that organizations everywhere have the power to contribute to a more equitable world. Within the challenges posed by the pandemic, there is ultimately an opportunity to invest in the future and help create a better one.
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