The future of work depends on the return of women to the labor market


The vulnerability of the role of women in the workplace came to the fore when COVID-19 took hold of the world. Nearly half a million more women than men left the workforce during the pandemic and, earlier this year, one in four women were considering quitting their careers altogether.

This creates a challenge and concern among employers today, as having a diverse team promotes productivity, increases employee engagement, and boosts motivation. So how can companies retain their female staff? How can they reintegrate women into the organization? Moreover, what role does HR play?

Why have more women than men left the workforce during the pandemic?

Three key factors have led more women to leave the workforce in the past 18+ months. First, women predominantly occupy the hardest-hit roles, such as hospitalitychildcare and office jobs. Second, schools have closed, giving many women disproportionately burden the responsibilities of childcare and virtual education. Finally, existing pay differentials have played a role, as women still earn less than men for the same job. The gender pay gap left women in dual income households with a dilemma, as it made more financial sense to quit their jobs and focus on what needed to be taken care of at home, instead of ” outsource expensive childcare services.

Why do women continue to feel less optimistic about their career prospects?

Despite attempts by some companies to support employees throughout the pandemic, women have felt burnt out, exhausted and under pressure. The crisis forced everyone to reassess their priorities, prompting some women to voluntarily quit their posts in an attempt to reduce the anxiety that comes with juggling family and work responsibilities, and to have more time to their interests outside of work, especially during a time of such mental stress.

Even with the lifting of some COVID-related restrictions, many women are not running to re-enter the workforce. According to a recent poll, moree more than half of the women surveyed were not optimistic about the future of their careers. History has shown that women are penalized when they take breaks, whether to care for a new baby or to explore new opportunities, and often return to a lower paying job with less responsibilities. Some families have made financial adjustments during the pandemic, such as moving house and reduce their household expenses, and no longer need additional income to maintain their lifestyle.

On the other hand, there is reason to believe that dissatisfaction with their job prospects will cause more women to go on their own and create a new wave of women-led businesses. This was the case during the Great Recession of 2007 and 2009, when women-owned businesses (which helped stabilize the economy during the recovery) were created out of necessity, as the unemployed are more inclined to start a business during a recession to avoid prolonged financial hardship.

How can business leaders turn the tide?

Businesses know that women are valuable in the workplace. A reluctance to move to meet the needs of working women will result in a loss of any momentum gained over the past decade in terms of diversity and inclusion. Plus, revenue can cost businesses billions. Employers are struggling to find new workers because “Great resignation” has led millions of people to quit their jobs. Without making certain changes, more women will leave and creating an inclusive workplace will be even more difficult.

There are several things business leaders need to consider to reverse this exodus:

  1. Meeting the needs of working mothers
    Flexible working hours and the possibility of working from home will increase the retention of women in employment. Management needs to consider whether working mothers really need a solid 9am to 5pm workday and if synergy and teamwork processes can be managed remotely.
  2. Evaluate compensation structures
    Companies must continue to assess wages and fairness, and pay the same whether a worker is in the office or remotely. Taking time off work doesn’t have to mean taking two steps back.
  3. Implement empathy
    Company leadership must understand and respect each person’s unique perspective, regardless of race or gender, in order to excel in retaining their diverse and dynamic workforce.
  4. Offer significant development opportunities
    Businesses need to increase support for the development of their workforce, by finding ways to resize the training and education of their workers. Giving them the tools and the path to more fulfilling careers results in greater retention and higher performance.

Instead of reverting to pre-pandemic habits, companies need to re-evaluate what makes sense in the future by finding ways to keep employees engaged and ensure they support their work / life balance. personal.

What role could human resources departments play in developing work environments that inspire women to return?

Human resources departments play a central role in facilitating office culture. When it comes to women, HR should continue to encourage leadership to create flexible working hours and work from home opportunities in order to retain their top talent. They need to train their leaders in active listening skills and help them build productive teams that can operate remotely. Programs that recognize and reward female employees for their contributions and foster a culture that encourages women to share their views help create a workplace where all feel valued.

The cost of investing in active listening, empathy, and workplace flexibility far outweighs the cost of recruiting. However, it is just as important to hire women as it is to retain them. Often times, HR is the first point of contact for a future employee. From the language of the job postings to the initial interview, the way the HR team conducts these interactions influences how candidates perceive the company. If a company implements a commitment to diversity when hiring, that will also say a lot about potential employees.

It is a crisis, but also an opportunity.

Women have made substantial gains in representation, but COVID-19 has amplified where work is still needed. Adapting to the needs of female staff helps reverse the loss caused by gender inequality resulting from COVID-19 and has enormous benefits for organizations in terms of hiring, costs, and meeting targets. diversity and inclusion. If organizations are to retain their talents and bring women back to the workplace, they must accept and embrace this new standard.

Written by Natalie J. McGill.

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