The effects of COVID-19 have made drastic impacts on the lives of everyone. However, women face these impacts on a much larger scale, resulting in 25% of women considering downshifting their career roles and even quitting work entirely. This would be detrimental to corporations’ growth around America as they would lose many highly skilled women in the workforce — even those in leadership positions — reversing the years of hard work put into pushing for workplace gender equality.
To better understand how to overcome the challenges women face in today’s workplace, let’s first take a closer look at the significant effects of the pandemic on women in the workforce.
Many women are leaving the workforce since the pandemic.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the progress of women in the workplace has steadily decreased. The impacts of COVID-19 have forced up to two million women to consider quitting their jobs. As the boundaries between work and home continue to blur with a work-from-home setup, working mothers experience daily triggers and pressures both from their jobs and their families that make them consider quitting.
Because of gender norms, mothers are more likely to leave the workforce than fathers as they are mainly responsible for childcare. Mothers believe that it is more reasonable for them to leave their jobs over their partner. They are the ones leaning more toward sacrificing and choosing their obligation to prioritize their children over their career.
COVID-19 has also affected women in leadership.
Women leaders are expected to perform at par with or even better than the standards for men when the pandemic hit. Because of these workplace biases, women in high positions are left to deal with unfair expectations of working doubly hard to go above and beyond. As a result of these demands contributing to burnout and taking a toll on mental health, many women in leadership positions feel the need to step down from their roles.
This situation is particularly critical to tackle because if companies lose women in leadership positions, the progress towards gender diversity in the workplace will be halted. Senior-level women are more likely to adopt company practices that embrace equality than men in the same position. Women leaders are also more likely to be mentors for other women aspiring to be in a leadership position. Without the current women in leadership, it will be more difficult for future women leaders to obtain those roles.
Working women of color experience more inequality.
On top of the discrimination they already face in the pre-pandemic workplace, women of color had to deal with a new set of challenges brought by COVID-19. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the black working women compared with other races. This has resulted in further emotional and mental burdens from being a woman, then being a woman in leadership positions, and then the discrimination that comes from being black.
During these challenging pandemic times, black women are also left feeling unsupported at work by their managers and coworkers. They are less likely than other women to experience that their managers ask about their workload or check that they are able to maintain a work-life balance during the pandemic. Women of color often feel disconnected from their coworkers and are unable to discuss the impact that today’s events have had on their lives.
Eliminating Gender Bias
While the pandemic has been challenging for companies everywhere, still, with any challenge comes an opportunity. If companies follow the right path, more equal and compassionate workplaces can be created. With better company efforts in closing the gender gap and implementing positive changes, there will be room for working women to flourish. Most of these efforts involve companies adopting more flexible and empathetic practices, allowing women to create harmony between work and home life.
Have open communication on the optimum work-from-home arrangements.
It is no question that women’s role at work is critical on the road towards a more diverse workplace. However, while remote work has been an excellent way for companies to fit the needs that working mothers have, it is important to consider that they also have to attend to their family life after committed work hours. Hence, the line drawn between work and home life has to become clearer. Companies can fix this by scheduling and strictly following set hours for work and regularly re-evaluating performance standards and workload.
Encourage women to maximize company benefits.
Many women feel that they cannot take advantage of work benefits for fear of being scrutinized. For example, women are reluctant to use the extended leave days available to them during the pandemic. They feel as if they will be judged for taking days off to take care of their kids or take a mental health day. Organizations must strive to ensure that this does not become an issue. Women in the workplace need to feel well-taken cared of to avoid feeling burnt out and leaving their job.
Be mindful of the amount of pressure placed on women employees and leaders.
Ever since women fought their way to the workforce, they already faced harsher judgment, which has only increased since the pandemic started. Now that managers cannot see a woman’s daily work, they are more likely to make assumptions as to why their performance is lacking. To avoid misjudgment, companies need to re-evaluate productivity and performance standards in light of the new challenges that have arisen from the pandemic. Many of these standards are no longer realistic for women to achieve because of the demands from home and work responsibilities. Sustainable work will allow for working mothers and women in leadership to maintain their work roles without feeling burnt out.
Make sure that no one gets left behind.
Companies must recognize the gender and racial discrimination currently happening in the workforce because that is the only way to address concerns and create a more inclusive environment for everyone. After all, regardless of gender and color, every employee contributes toward keeping the organization afloat through highs and lows. Companies need to work harder in allowing black women to have a voice in the workplace to enable a better work environment. If this happens, companies will reap more benefits from a diverse and inclusive workforce, beaming with ideas of promising innovations.
At Infinity Consulting Solutions (ICS), we want to help you and your team navigate these unprecedented times. While adopting post-pandemic changes can be challenging, ICS is here to help you get through it. Contact us today to get more insights into how you can find success despite the changing work environment.