Preserving and Engaging Women in the Workforce
From October 2019 to October 2020, 2.2 million women left the US labor force!
This shocking statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reflects the devastation that COVID-19 has had on the economy and particularly on women’s lives. Some women, especially in service industries, have lost their jobs when their organizations cut staff. Other women left their jobs or work fewer hours in order to cope with their additional roles as teachers and full-time caregivers as schools and childcare facilities remain closed.
In addition, the societal bias that mothers are less committed to their jobs because of their extra work load makes women vulnerable, especially as many employers look to reduce their wage bill (Zaber and Edwards, 2020).
How and What to Change
Bringing women back into the post-pandemic workforce can be accomplished in several ways. Mallick (2020) suggests the following:
- Pandemic unpaid leave of absence for 12 to 18 months, with full benefits. High potential women can then return to the organization at the same level, although not necessarily the same job.
- Establish return-to-work programs that include skills training, support, and the potential of a full-time job. (Mallick, 2020).
- Companies that did well during the pandemic should reinvest some of their profits into upskilling women.
How To Boost Employee Engagement
The silver lining of the pandemic shows that work can be done in different ways and still be valuable. Also, the recognition that workers are people with families and other demands, has brought back the importance of putting employees at the center of work design. Lauritsen (2020) suggests the following to boost employee engagement:
- Open communication to reduce uncertainty and build involvement through Town Halls, regular employee-manager check-ins, team meetings, and employee surveys.
- Employees need to feel valued and appreciated so make recognition part of the company culture through “shout-outs” and modeling appreciative behavior.
- Offer flexibility, give employees the freedom to choose remote versus office work or a mixture of the two.
- Organizational trust. Employees need to know that their company has their best interests at heart. Regular employee surveys can provide employers valuable feedback on this.
Women’s journey into the world of work has taken many decades to achieve. To ensure that women continue to be valuable contributors to the economy, organizations need to work with their female employees to design work and programs to support women empowerment.
Which Parents Need the Most Support While K–12 Schools and Child Care Centers Are Physically Closed? Julia H. Kaufman, Laura S. Hamilton, Melissa Kay Diliberti, www.rand.org, May, 2020.
Employee Engagement Essentials Post-COVID, Jason Lauritsen, www.workhuman.com. Aug 2020
5 Ways to Bring Women Back into the Post-Pandemic Workforce, Mita Mallick. Harvard business review, February 2021.
Coronavirus: Will women have to work harder after the pandemic? Pablo Uchoa, BBC World Service, www.bbc.co.uk, July 2020.
Women have a vital role to play in post-pandemic recovery. ITC news, www.intracen.org, Oct 2020‹ Previous PostNext Post ›