How to Bring Women Back to Work Post COVID
The results were startling. McKinsey partnered with LeanIn.Org to study the impacts of COVID19 on women in the workplace and here’s what they found: 1 in 4 working women in North America is or has considered “downshifting their careers or dropping out of the workforce entirely.” (McKinsey, Women in the Workplace, 2020)
COVID has disproportionately negatively affected women, who account for nearly 55% of jobs lost, with Black & Latino women being the hardest hit, as women around the world bore the weight of managing their children’s virtual learning, making the decisions on health and safety, worrying about families and parents and more—all while trying to work from home according to Blake Morgan, our speaker, and customer experience futurist.
The numbers are surprising.
In numbers, that is nearly 2.2 million women leaving the labor force between February and October 2020, according to the latest statistics from the National Women’s Law Center. (National Women’s Law Center 2020)
Further to that, as our leadership speaker Michelle Ray points out, almost 1.7 billion children were sent home from school and childcare as a result of the pandemic, causing an uphill struggle for carers, largely women, to contend with while working from home. In going back to work, the onus will be on leaders to create an environment of empathy, flexibility, and understanding moving forward. (United Nations, 2021)
Communications expert Colette Carlson agrees that “women… need more flexibility to work remotely… [and] leaders have a tremendous amount to consider when deciding policies and procedures as they consider remote or hybrid workforces” moving forward.
We know that women’s advancement in the workforce is a key part of successful organizations.
Organizations with more than 40% women in leadership roles are collectively smarter than other organizations, according to emotional intelligence expert Scott Halford, so a decline in women in the workforce will set gender parity rates back by years.
However, to suggest that only women will be affected by a return to the workplace is naive.
As Dr. Nicole Lipkin, Clinical Psychologist and our speaker on resilience & mental agility, notes even though women have borne the brunt of job losses and downgraded opportunities, the challenge of returning to the workplace is not solely about women.
She encourages leaders to take this opportunity to look at the disparity within their organizations, including pay, responsibility, and general inequality, in an effort to make impactful changes from this point forward.
“It goes beyond woman, man, black, white, tall, short and everything else. This is a human being issue.” Dr. Nicole Lipkin
The challenge then is not solely focused on women returning to the workforce, but in everyone returning to the workforce after more than a year and a half of remote work. Empathy, connection, and compassion will be the keys to unlocking great teams and powerful organizations.
Victoria Labalme suggests using a “full-spectrum” approach that harnesses the full spectrum of an individual’s skills and talents and combines them into a unique team. The benefits of this leverage flexibility and encourage engagement: two factors that are vital to a successful return to the workplace for all. (Risk Forward, 2021)
Flexibility is the key factor in a successful return to work.
All of our speakers interviewed, including Leadership speaker Libby Gill and emotional intelligence expert Scott Halford, agree on this.
Women have balanced the dual responsibilities of work and family life over the last 18 months in a greater proportion to men and the demands of this are simply too tough to manage without a great deal of stress, says Libby Gill.
The way to combat this is to create flexibility within the workforce, whether it be hybrid workplaces or flexible meeting procedures. Scott Halford recommends that organizations recreate meetings, both onsite and offsite, to encourage all team members to participate, whether they are returning to existing roles or stepping into new ones.
Leaders cannot afford to ignore or minimize the impacts of the pandemic on their workforce, especially when it comes to women returning to the workforce. Flexibility will be the key ingredient to creating a successful transition back to new models of working, thinking, and diversity.
With women making up more than 70% of all currently enrolled college students, according to Garrison Wynn, our motivational leadership speaker, leaders can no longer afford to ignore the issues of pay parity and general inequality.
While it may seem a scary, uncertain time, the opportunities for leaders and organizations right now are unparalleled and exciting. Womens’ advancement in the workforce on equal terms will not only lead to more women remaining in the workforce, but also to more effective, successful organizations.
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Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]