During the COVID-19 pandemic, 88% of organizations said women employees faced child-care and home-schooling conflicts and remote work challenges that impacted their work and development, according to the Brandon Hall Group research study, What’s Changing for Women in the Workplace?
The Impact of COVID-19 on Women Employees
The conflicts faced because of COVID led to women taking extended leave or resigning their positions in about one-third of organizations. This creates both short- and long-term repercussions in the workplace.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Women Employees
Many studies indicate that COVID-19 dealt a major setback to women in the workplace. Even before COVID, Brandon Hall Group research showed that women were not making substantial progress toward gaining a proportional representation in management. Only 51% of organizations believe they effectively develop women in the workplace, according to What’s Changing for Women in the Workplace? Most organizations said that more support from top management and having specific owners of development initiatives for women would help, the research showed.
COVID could stall progress further and lead to a decrease in women leaders. That’s a problem because many research studies show that women in meaningful leadership roles drive business growth and improve inclusion of traditionally disadvantaged groups.
- How can employers better understand the needs of women in their workforce?
- How can organizations mitigate the impact COVID-19 has had on women employees?
The impact of COVID-19 lingers because of virus variants and sociopolitical factors. While some of those adverse impacts may wane when the pandemic eases, it is unclear when that will occur or what the longer-term impacts will be on women and families.
Through our quantitative research and interviews with a variety of employers, here are four high-level strategies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on women employees.
Make the Work Environment as Flexible as Possible.
Employers should understand that women in general — and women of color, in particular — have been adversely affected by COVID-19 much more than men. Women still shoulder a disproportionate share of childcare and home-schooling responsibilities and are more likely to respond to emergencies or other family situations that pull them away from work temporarily.
Therefore, employers should create as much flexibility as possible for women to contribute to the organization. Working at home at least part-time and flexible hours are a big part of that, but strategies like job sharing — offered by only 25% of employers — can be helpful. Sharing jobs or cross-training people to step in when needed, can keep good employees working and contributing while handling situations outside of work.
Use Assessments and Surveys to Understand the Needs of Women Employees.
The needs of women employees will vary in different organizations, depending on the location, work schedules and workforce demographics. Reasonable and helpful accommodations at one location or company may not be as relevant or helpful in another.
Using surveys or other tools to understand employees’ needs in general, including women, can assist the organization in providing services and support that resonates with the workforce. Having empathetic managers who communicate regularly with their teams and understand the flexibility team members need can also help since situations and conditions can change.
Create Support Resources.
Ensure women and others who may occasionally have special needs can access resources to assist them. This may range from mobile-accessible websites that list resources, to apps that connect them with resources in the community, to providing mentors or “buddies” to confer with when situations arise that may impact them at work.
Employers should be aware of challenges that may arise for employees and offer assistance that gives these employees a strong sense of belonging and of feeling valued. Certainly, there are limits on the flexibility employers can offer, but having a handle on employees’ needs and providing flexibility and resources that are reasonable for the organization and the employees can aid engagement and retention.
Measure Key Indicators Related to Women.
52% of organizations do not specifically measure the effectiveness of development programs and services for women. That means half of organizations have no idea what is effective or not.
Only about one-third of organizations measure the retention rate for women. Only about one-fifth of organizations measure or calculate engagement scores for women. And only 4% of organizations compare the satisfaction rates of training between women and other participants.