Ladies Threat Dropping A long time of Office Progress As a consequence of Covid-19 – Right here’s How Firms Can Forestall That
By Stephanie MH Moore, Indiana University
American women have made strides in income, employment, and careers in the workplace over the past half century – thanks in no small part to the efforts of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The COVID-19 pandemic carries the risk of reversing many of these gains within a few months. Without concrete action, I believe that a generation of women may never fully recover.
One group of women who are particularly at risk are those in professional fields. Though fortunate enough to have quality jobs, increased childcare demands are forcing many to cut working hours – or stop working altogether. Mothers have always been more concerned with looking after a household than fathers, but it has continued to go wrong since lockdowns began earlier this year.
According to a study of 317 companies published on September 30th, more than one in four women is considering downgrading their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. The latest job report, dated October 2, showed that the participation rate of women in the labor market continues to fall faster than men.
With schools across the country struggling to open classrooms for personal learning, many women have no choice but to either continue to balance the needs of their children with the demands of their jobs, or to abandon the latter. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more it threatens to permanently affect women’s ability to advance their careers and earn more income.
However, this result is not inevitable. As a professional ethics expert, I believe companies have the ability – and duty – to prevent many of these negative outcomes.
Responsibility for childcare
The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of all working women.
For example, since April, women – black women in particular – have lost jobs far more often than men, in large part because they have jobs in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, such as service, travel and retail.
At the same time, women do most of the poorly paid basic tasks. Women make up 77% of healthcare workers, 77% of teachers, 94% of childcare workers, and 70% of cashiers – jobs that tend to be underpaid, undervalued and are at higher risk for COVID-19.
But it is working women like lawyers, analysts, engineers and other leaders who have the most to lose because they have made great strides in their careers compared to women a generation ago – even if there is still a way to achieve gender equality .
Since women are typically responsible for organizing childcare for their families, the demands on their time have increased significantly during the pandemic. A study that looked at the period from the first widespread US outbreak in February to its first peak in April found mothers with young children cut their working hours four to five times as much as fathers, increasing the gender gap in the Working hours by the year tightened 20% to 50%.
Another study examining data from the Census Household Pulse poll in late April and early May found that over 80% of adults in the US who didn’t work because they had to care for their children who weren’t in school were in daycare, were women.
And with the school year currently in full swing, women continue to report childcare much more often than men because they cannot work. The Boston Consulting Group found that women were spending 15 hours more per week on housework than men during the pandemic. And Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on helping businesses serve women better, reported that women are twice as likely to be responsible for going to school as men.
We know that part of the reason for all of this can be traced back to workplace norms and societal gender biases. However, some of this has to do with what is most practical for a family. When someone needs to reduce hours, families choose the person who earns less – and usually that is the woman. And since women tend to work fewer hours and tend to work part-time, their work has lower priority when there are disruptions.
But it’s not just mothers. Women without children are also more likely to play a role as caregivers, especially during the pandemic. Two-thirds of caregivers in the US are women, meaning they provide daily or regular support to children, adults, or people with chronic illnesses or disabilities – and they are also at risk of losing ground due to work-related stress and burnout.
What companies can do
Fortunately, there is a lot that companies can do to mitigate the impact and even out differences overall.
It starts with communication. The first thing companies should do is survey their employees to determine what they need. The results can be used as a guide to the types of guidelines that will best address the specific concerns and situations of workers.
Regardless of what changes are made in management, it is imperative that organizations communicate clearly and frequently with all employees and establish appropriate and appropriate workloads. With the increasing stress on workers, it is also very helpful to organize and distribute mental health resources and encourage staff to use them.
All women currently need more flexibility. Above all, women who look after young children need more flexibility to meet competing demands on their time.
Flexible working can mean many things, such as: For example, employees can continue working from home after they return to the office in order to balance their working hours and to schedule important meetings and other tasks at specific times. For example, many parents drive their children to school to avoid the bus, so companies can help by simply not scheduling important meetings at normal pick-up and drop-off times. In my own department, some shared their personal calendars with management to help with this type of planning.
Other families may have their children at home all the time because of problems with online schooling or childcare. Recording meetings and events for people who are unable to attend or who are disturbed ensures that everyone has access to important information.
But it’s not just about giving women flexibility. Men also need flexibility so that they can take on more of their childcare tasks – even after the birth of a child – and women can devote more time to their work. Some men have reported that they do not have the same flexibility as women to manage family care, even if they say they want or need to take on more responsibilities.
And when workers are expecting a baby, offering equal vacation mothers and fathers can make a big difference in helping women stay on the workforce and advance their careers during the pandemic. Most states and corporations have policies that are more generous for mothers than fathers – often twice as much.
Another step companies can take is to be more active in supporting childcare, whether through direct subsidies or simply through information and guidance on available resources.
Organizations can also address some of these issues in performance reviews by adjusting unrealistic productivity expectations.