Making the Workplace Work for Women
Women in the Workforce, Making the Workplace Work for Women, Hyer

Making the Workplace Work for Women

Conversations and controversy surrounding the current labor shortage seem to be a trending topic these days. Across the United States, pleas for help are plastered in the windows of mom-and-pop shops all the way up to big box stores. A true sign of the times.


In our last blog post, we highlighted a few reasons why workers are opting out of the workforce. From lingering health concerns and expanded jobless benefits, to still being needed at home—emerged as top causes would-be workers might be opting out. But we didn’t dive into who a majority of these workers are.  


A recent study completed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that as of February 2021, 5.3 million women have left the workforce, compared to February 2020. A staggering number that shows women, by far, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

The Global Impact on Working Women

Far reaching, the COVID-19 crisis has had an alarming impact on women globally. The loss of jobs due to the pandemic have cost women around the world at least $800 billion in earnings. These women have been burdened and burnt out by not just work, but the culmination of closures by schools and childcare centers.


According to a report co-published by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, mothers have been three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for a majority of housework and childcare. They have also been twice as likely as fathers to worry that their work performance is being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. Mounting responsibilities that are taking a clear toll on their health, mental wellbeing and careers.


“This is the most alarming report we’ve ever seen,” said Lean In Founder, Sheryl Sandberg. “I think what’s happening is this report confirms what people have suspected, but we haven’t had the data—which is that the coronavirus is hitting women incredibly hard and risks undoing the progress we’ve made for women in the workforce.”

Helping Women Find a Way Forward

Women that have had to leave the workforce in recent months may find that slipping back in as if nothing has happened—might not be an easy task. That’s why more and more women are turning to the gig economy, as it provides flexible work and a way for them to earn money while juggling responsibilities such as child care.


To better support all women in the workplace, Sandberg says company leaders need to not only do a better job at promoting, mentoring and sponsoring women, but they also need to do a better job at understanding the pressures women are facing during this unique time.


While different companies have different systems, Sandberg says, “It’s imperative for leaders to evolve those systems so that employees know you appreciate and respect the situation [they] are in. “We can make work work for women and men,” she says. “We can make work work for parents if we are flexible and if we give people the support they need. This is a moment where rather than move backwards we can move forward.”


New Normal, New Opportunities

A recent study, Women @ Work, completed by Deloitte, emphasized the need for flexibility from employers, especially for female employees. Nearly a quarter of the women surveyed say better childcare support, short-term leave and better resources to support their mental health are the top three things companies can do to keep them.


“This is about embedding flexible working as the norm,” said Codd of Deloitte. “It’s about leaders’ embracing it. It’s about knowing that working differently to what may be the norm is still successful. And it’s about not judging on presenteeism. It’s about judging on outputs.”


With this in mind, organizations have an enormous opportunity in front of them.


Businesses that take the time now to develop different ways of working, can emerge stronger than they were pre-pandemic.