Happy International Women's Day! The National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded in the early 1980s, recognizing that American women’s important contributions were missing from history texts. The NWHP was committed to “honoring women of diverse cultural, ethnic, occupational, racial, class, and regional backgrounds” and “writing women back into history.” In 1987, NWHP lobbied Congress to recognize March as women’s History Month. Now known as the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA), the organization continues to champion women’s roles in shaping culture. The National Women’s Law Center’s Claire Ewing Nelson notes that in 2020, approximately 2.1 million women left the workforce; of those, nearly 881,000 are women of color. Within this article, we’ll explore how to spark career growth for women after COVID-19.
COVID-19 effects on professional women.
While it’s exciting to contemplate the many ways that women have helped build the framework of our country, it’s important to call out the professional setback they’re experiencing because of the pandemic. Sadly, women are leaving the workforce in droves because of pandemic pressures and covid-related job losses. In fact, NPR’s Pallavi Gogoi points out: “The ratio of women working has now fallen below 57% for the first time since 1988.” That’s just one year after NWHP convened the first Women’s History Month celebration.
Gogoi further explains: “The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on households, and women are bearing the brunt of it. Not only have they lost the most jobs from the beginning of the pandemic, but they are exhausted from the demands of child care and housework — and many are now seeing no path ahead but to quit working.” So, how do we reincorporate women into the workforce?
Create a culture of belonging.
Creating inclusive professional cultures is an important way to invite women’s participation. Extending opportunities for remote, part-time, and flexible work can be a game-changer for an employee juggling professional, and family life demands. It’s vital to clarify to leaders and other employees that these are cultural values that extend to all contributors. That way, employees can feel well-positioned to do their best work.
The pandemic disrupted the traditional workplace model. But it also presented an opportunity to rethink that paradigm. Harness those possibilities.
Glassdoor’s Culture 500 tool helps employers, employees, and job candidates evaluate culture across nine core values: agility, collaboration, diversity, and integrity. This way, candidates can target companies that look like a good fit for them, and companies can self-evaluate based on their peers’ success.
Returnships are opportunities for professionals who have left the workforce. These roles are like paid internships for experienced professionals trying to reestablish their careers after a hiatus. Like internships, returnships are generally temporary roles. They usually extend about 12-18 months. Returnships build professionals’ resumes and refresh their skills. They offer professionals a career “reboot” and a renewed sense of professional direction.
Returnships have proven especially helpful to women who have left the workforce to raise their children or care for ailing parents or family members.
Invest in women’s leadership.
Make a commitment to the women on your team. Create a leadership pipeline to help female leaders grow and evolve professionally—position women as leaders in your institution. “Firstly, it’s critical for managers to provide support for female employees’ leadership development. By paying for formal training programs, offering stretch assignments, providing opportunities for mentoring or coaching, and supporting other forms of leadership training and development, managers show their female employees that they value their contributions and believe in their potential as leaders or future leaders.” says, Dr. Amy DuVernet, director of training manager development at Training Industry, Inc and her colleague Taryn Oesch DeLong, managing editor, digital content.
Creating leadership opportunities for female professionals bolsters your leadership team and enhances your professional culture. It shows the women on staff that there are long-term opportunities to grow professionally and financially within the organization.
DuVernet and DeLong add: “formal coaching makes a huge impact in women’s access to leadership development — in fact, it just about eliminates the gap between men’s and women’s access to leadership development opportunities. However, our research also found that many women are less comfortable with formal coaching. Coaches and leaders need to create safe coaching opportunities that truly make an impact on women’s skill development and growth, and that give women the tools and support they need to step into leadership roles.”
Investing in the leadership potential of your female employees is an investment in your company’s future.
Pay employees fairly.
Does a gender wage gap exist among your employees? Check by doing a gender pay audit. See how your equity practices measure up. Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, advises: “This involves examining your own payroll data for evidence of a gender pay gap, and making recommendations to senior management about ways to lower gender barriers in recruitment, hiring, pay, and promotion before they arise as broader organizational concerns.”
A workplace that’s worth it.
Scores of women worked in roles that have been eradicated because of pandemic layoffs and furloughs. Others did the math and decided that it was no longer worth it for theirs to be a two-income household. All of these women are either searching for jobs or soon will be. Make yours a workplace that’s worth it for them.
Vice President Kamala Harris writes: “When we lift women, we lift families, we lift communities and all of the social benefits.”