Let’s Talk About the She-cession

Let’s Talk About the She-cession

March 25, 2021

She-cession-Meta

A few months ago we published a blog post about the disproportionately negative impact COVID-19 has had on women’s careers. As we wrap up Women’s History Month, we want to bring light to this issue again. Why? Because bringing awareness to the systemic inequalities women face in work and life is the only way we’ll start seeing real change. Here are the facts: Female participation in the workplace has lowered to a level not seen since 1988. And for those still in the workforce, in 2020, a woman made just $0.81 for every dollar a man made.

Female participation in the workplace has lowered to a level not seen since 1988.

Despite these facts, a recent Monster survey reported 74% of women don’t think they make as much salary as their male counterparts, while 73% of men believe that men and women are paid equally. This is a baffling awareness gap which showcases that more light needs to be shined on gender inequalities at work. But equality in the workplace is about more than just pay. It means supporting women day to day by analyzing management’s deficiencies, training, policies, and concrete D&I goals.

The pandemic’s effect on women has been devastating. Let’s look at the statistics. In 2020, over 2 million women left the labor force. Many were laid off because female-dominated industries like teaching and hospitality were hit the hardest in terms of closures and job losses. Many women were forced to leave their job or reduce their hours to care for children and elderly loved ones as schools and daycares closed. Black and Latina women have been particularly impacted and have the highest unemployment rates. Again, right now, female participation in the workplace has lowered to a level not seen since 1988. This setback is frightening. We need women in the workplace in order to keep our economy growing. Research done by PWC UK determined that even at double the rate of historical progression, it will take us until 2030 to achieve pre-pandemic equality growth.

Even at double the rate of historical progression, it will take us until 2030 to achieve pre-pandemic equality growth.

The staggering number of women out of work compared to men is a direct result of pre-existing inequalities in the workplace. The majority of female spouses make less than their male partners. So, when schools closed, it made more sense financially for them to be the ones to cut back on work to care for children. There are also lingering stigmas against men staying home with kids that contribute to gender inequality. Studies have shown men are more likely to be penalized for taking paternity leave and requesting flexible arrangements to care for kids.

So, what can we do to help fix this problem? Reading and sharing this blog post is a great first step. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t have all the information. The brunt of the responsibilities falls on managers and company leaders. If you are not a manager or company leader, feel empowered to share this with those in your organization.

Here are some suggestions on how to create equitable change in your organization:

  • Keep remote work options available post-COVID.
    - Research has shown that productivity hasn’t suffered as we transitioned to working from home. Arguably, productivity will only increase when the pandemic dies down as children go back to school and COVID related anxieties fade.
    - Many managers have an outdated perception that if an employee isn’t seen, they’re not working. We have proof now that that’s not the case.
    - The ability to work from home is hugely beneficial to parents.
  • Ensure you have policies in place that support working parents.
    - Both parents are employed in 63% of American families but, only 6% of companies offer employees childcare benefits. Benefits include: Subsidies, on-site childcare, childcare savings accounts, and flexible employee schedules.
  • Implement gender and diversity KPIs.
    - Start with an internal audit to determine deficiencies.
    - Determine your diversity goals and set a timeline with check-ins.
    - If you don’t have tangible goals and a way to measure progress, your D&I initiatives won’t accomplish much.
  • Destigmatize time gaps in resumes.
    - The longer someone is out of the workforce, the longer it takes them to find a job. This can change with more understanding and compassion. Due to the recession, many women (and men) have been out of work for months. Also, since childcare is so expensive many parents need to take time off from work while their children are young. Taking a break from one’s career is often a necessity and candidates shouldn’t be punished for it.
  • Pay women equally!
    - We wouldn’t be seeing as great a disparity between working men and women during the pandemic if genders were paid equally in the first place.
  • Don’t shame men for taking paternity leave or time-off to be with kids.
    - There may be equitable policies in place for men at your workplace but, practices can take longer to catch-up.
  • Lead with empathy…we’re all struggling.
    - Promote open communication. Check in with employees often on more than just work related issues. An employee may be completely overwhelmed with work and home-life challenges but feel uncomfortable talking with their manager about it.
    - Encourage time off to spend with loved ones or for employees’ mental health. Managers can lead by example here. If employees see leaders taking a well-deserved break, they are more likely to as well.
    - With COVID, we’ve all been in an extremely stressful and unpredictable state for over a year now. While it’s been challenging, we’ve learned how flexible and resilient we can be. This time period has proven that no one is immune from challenges in life. As time goes on, employers and employees will have life issues that arise that may call for a more flexible work schedule or time off. This doesn’t make them any less valuable as a worker.

If equality itself isn’t enough of a motivating factor, consider the financial and company culture benefits. All else aside, gender diversity is key for organizations’ bottom line. Gender-diverse businesses have higher average revenues than less diverse business units. And the gains aren’t all financial. A recent study showed that organizations with a higher percentage of women had more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication, more meaningful work, and less burnout. Having more female representation was also positively correlated with employee engagement and retention. Simply put, more women in the proverbial office is good for business. So, take a hard look at your organization and determine what improvements need to be made to create a more equitable workplace.


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