The pandemic pushed the burden of childcare back onto many women in households, causing over 800,000 women to quit their jobs to stay home and take care of the kids (according to the NYT). At its highest point during the pandemic, unemployment for women was 2.9 percentage points higher than men’s, and according to McKinsey & Company, a national consulting firm on strategic management, women’s fight for work may have been set back by five years.
The setback in women’s employment negatively impacts the progress made in previous years for gender equality and makes it much harder for families to recover financially from the recession.
The global economy cannot recover if women aren’t supported. If women are still the primary caretakers at home, they are more likely not to return to the workforce. In a 2020 survey, 2 million women were considering leaving work, and it will take a year and a half longer for women’s employment levels to recover than those of men.
Women of color face an especially difficult challenge in balancing motherhood and career. Many women of color were laid-off or furloughed during the pandemic, hindering their careers and threatening their financial security. Many worked low wage jobs, without a safety net. They earned less than their male counterparts and therefore left the workforce to care for children, sick family members, and older relatives even though they could not afford the lost wages.
Companies interested in recruiting or retaining female employees affected by the crises of the pandemic can make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace – creating a culture in which women have an equal opportunity to reach their potential.
Here are some ways to invest in keeping women in the workforce:
- Include women in strategic initiatives.
- Allow for flexible work models, remote options, job-sharing, or shorter work weeks where you can.
- Check your productivity expectations to ensure they are realistic, especially for part-time roles.
- Let parents know they are supported. Publish your innovating policies, parental benefits, and flex time options for all employees to see.
- Abolish the gender pay gap. Women still earn only $0.82 to every $1 a man makes in the U.S. And there’s an even more significant difference for women of color.
- Offer benefits that address at-home demands like mental health coverage, expanded time off for homeschooling, and daycare or employee assistance programs.
- Establish clear communication. Let parents know the door is open, and when childcare issues come up, you can address them together.
- Consider parent-specific office perks like kid-friendly events or parent support groups.
- If you don’t have a maternity leave policy, get one. And paternity leave is important too!
It is clear that if we want women in the workforce, investing in childcare solutions and re-evaluating how we work will be vitally important, not only to your employees, but for your entire organization. Speak with experienced recruitment experts about developing a strategic DEI hiring initiative and targeting your jobs to niche female candidates today.