Much has been written about the pandemic and its impact on the global economy, labor market, and livelihood. Yet, there is more to learn about the severity of its impact on women in particular.
Globally, women comprise 39% of the global workforce. However, the pandemic resulted in 54% of women losing their jobs. This means that approximately 64 million women were laid off within the span of two years. Additionally, more women have been furloughed for a longer period of time than their male counterparts.
Whether they were furloughed, laid off, or continued working, research shows that 51% of women are less optimistic about their career prospects.
As such, organizations have to re-architect their approach towards their female workforce.
Recognizing Her Wellbeing
According to the World Economic Forum, “women with children in the household are more likely to report an increase in stress levels due to changes in work routines, the pressure of looking after the family during the pandemic, and inadequacies in their home-working environment.”
This is because tradition dictates that women are responsible for the household even if they are employed. As such, working women struggle to prioritize their overall wellbeing.
Consequently, burnout experienced by women “has become the number one issue affecting productivity in the workplace,” shared Kristin Durney, CPC and Co-Founder of Mental Wellness Unleashed.
“It affects our ability to be resilient, perform self-care, and be open about our challenges to get the support we need.”
Hence, organizations that aim to thrive beyond the pandemic must take into consideration the challenges their female employees face and actively introduce practices that better support them.
Prioritizing Her Employee Experience
A simple way to begin is to prioritize employee experience.
Whether an organization is shifting from ‘Work from Home’ to ‘Work at the Office’ or adopting a hybrid work approach, employers must recognize that the needs of their female employees may greatly differ from their male employees.
For instance, “many women don’t have easy access to affordable childcare and quick commutes to work,” said Annie Robinson, Leader in Physician Well-Being and Resilience at New York University’s School of Medicine.
Therefore, when employers expect their employees to return to the office full time or some days of the week, flexibility must be introduced to allow for working women to manage their household responsibilities as well.
Not only that, organizations should re-architect their ‘ideal employee’ model to prioritize hiring and/or promoting employees based on “their skills and potential, and not just their direct work experience and formal qualification,” said Sue Duke, Head of Global Public Policy at LinkedIn.
Meeting Her Desire to be Technodextrous
Historically, women have been overlooked, undervalued, and underrepresented in STEM fields. The pandemic merely exacerbated this discrepancy as more women were disproportionately affected by the unprecedented digital disruption at workplaces.
This double disruption has left many women craving for “more professional development and training opportunities.” More than they want “work-life balance, a big paycheck, and employer-sponsored child care.”
Studies show that in the Philippines, 56% of people enrolled in online courses were women while 51% of learners from Malaysia were women, and female learners made up 48% of the online learners in Singapore. Evidently, women are actively seeking reskilling and upskilling opportunities.
The studies also revealed that these women learners were especially interested in developing their knowledge and skills in machine learning, computer programming, and IT support. A clear indicator of their desire to be more technologically savvy.
Empowering Her to be a Leader
Nations led by women leaders seemingly managed the pandemic better than nations led by men leaders. Research suggests that their success boils down to their emphasis on “health, safety, community, and compassion.”
Similar values heavily prioritized by the global workforce, especially since the pandemic.
“Instead of encouraging women to act like male leaders (many of whom are incompetent), we should be asking men in power to adopt some of the more effective leadership behaviours more commonly found in women,” said Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Cindy Gallop of Harvard Business Review.
However, research shows that female leadership has plateaued in the last two years despite an upward trend in the years leading up to 2020.
Therefore, organizations must re-imagine their hiring and promotion practices. Additionally, they need to re-architect their mindsets and behaviors to cultivate a corporate culture that creates equal opportunities for women to skill up into leadership and decision-making roles.
After all, studies show that organizations that employ gender-diverse leadership are more likely to experience holistic growth.