Over the last year, employers have become well acquainted with the many impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace. Less widely known is just how deep and long-term some of those impacts have been, and will continue to be, for the working women vital to the success of many businesses. Compared to male employees, many companies are finding twice the turnover among female employees.
Recent studies have revealed that one in four women are now considering permanently leaving or downscaling their roles in the US workforce, spurred by the Coronavirus pandemic. Across the country, companies are reporting difficulties filling ever-increasing open positions, especially those requiring highly qualified candidates.
Labor statistics from Summer of 2020 found 865,000 American women dropped out of the workforce in August and September alone. This trend continued through the remainder of 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics now shows that women are twice as likely as men to have left or lost their jobs because of COVID-19 – leaving a massive gap in the workforce, which will have years of irreversible impact if not addressed.
A recent article titled, “America Can’t Recover from COVID-19 Without Helping Moms,” highlights some of the issues:
- Getting children physically back into the classroom will be key in providing women with the work opportunities they wish for family wellbeing and stability. Social policy ought to focus on getting schools opened quickly.
- Women shoulder more responsibility for housework, childcare, and homeschooling compared to men, whether they were employed or not. Sometimes, those responsibilities directly led them to reduce work hours or leave jobs entirely. The impact of lost wages hinges largely on government policies that reopen schools or provide financial support.
- Finding women workers will be a critical need well into the future.
WHAT BUSINESSES CAN DO TO SUPPORT WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE
Many business models require a balanced workforce, and the hundreds of thousands of positions vacated by women during the pandemic will become critical to fill as the pandemic winds down. Employers should be aware and plan accordingly.
We suggest each employer carefully evaluate and compare turnover among the women and men they employ. Keeping women in the workplace no longer simply revolves around the benefits packages and childcare solutions offered. Employers will need to show true flexibility to ensure a temporary downturn of the number of working women doesn’t become a permanent outcome.
Now more than ever, an employer’s support of all employees should extend to ensuring evident signs of genuine care and acknowledgement about the contributions, future potential, and wellbeing of all staff.
The pandemic has caused our work and personal lives to merge indistinguishably. The notion of a universal “9 to 5” no longer exists. As businesses slowly start to turn the corner and return to a more “normal” working environment, it will be critical to apply tactics learned over the past year. This will help prioritize a level of realistic balance and enable more women to return to the workforce.
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