This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern.
When more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. International Monetary Fund
THE BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT WORKING WOMEN
- Women account for 56 percent of the workforce exits since the start of the pandemic.
- Women are nearly two times more likely (1.8) to lose their job due to the pandemic than men.
- 82% of working women have said their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic.
- 70% of women believe that the pandemic will have a negative impact on their careers.
- Women are more vulnerable to COVID-19–related economic effects because of existing gender inequalities.
- Even prior to the pandemic, women are disproportionately driven out of the workforce, or full workforce participation, due to insufficient or an absence of paid parental leave, flexible work policy, and the ability to work remotely.
“Across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, are more likely to be employed in the informal sector. They have less access to social protections and are the majority of single-parent households. Their capacity to absorb economic shocks is therefore less than that of men.”
3 THINGS LEADERS MUST DO (NOW)
They must act! Unless leaders act to improve the workplace culture, policies and lived experience of women, then the recovery from the global pandemic will be delayed for both business and society.
Matthias Doepke who is a Professor of Economics at Northwestern University says “it’s not about one single thing” in reference to the exodus of women from the global workforce. So here are some questions to ask at the next board and/or executive team meeting:
1. Do the board and the executive team regularly review the representation and lived experience of women in the workplace?
2. Has a gender equality lens been applied to all talent-related decisions before and during the pandemic?
Attitudes also shape how women experience the economic consequences of a crisis relative to men. These aren’t new beliefs but rather traditional societal mindsets about the role of women. They may be reflected in current decisions, at the organizational level or indeed within the family, about who gets to keep their jobs. For example, according to the global World Values Survey, more than half the respondents in many countries in South Asia and MENA agreed that men have more right to a job than women when jobs are scarce. About one in six respondents in developed countries said the same. McKinsey
3. Is the organization’s approach to family working for all people? (not just women)
A flex work policy is one thing. But leaders must understand that flexible and remote working is not just a ‘women’s issue’. Gendered attitudes prevent more men than women from asking for flexible work arrangements. Workplace flexibility bias (the belief that people at their workplace are unlikely to get ahead if they take leave or work flexibly) affects all genders attitudes to their workplace and has massive implications for women engagement at work, their intentions to stay or leave their jobs, their ability to balance their work and personal lives, and even their health. In other words, if more men ask for flex work arrangements and as a consequence, ‘shared the care’ in the home, then more women would be enabled to participate more fully (and potentially joyfully) in the workforce. Organizations must step up action towards a family-friendly workplace that enables flexible and remote working.
About Michelle Redfern
Michelle is the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing research and advisory services on equality, inclusion and gender diversity. She is also the founder professional women’s network Women Who Get It, co-founder of social enterprise CDW (Culturally Diverse Women and Workforces) and co-founder and co-host of A Career that Soars! Michelle is determined to contribute to achieving global gender equality in her life time, especially through her research and advocacy in the sporting industry.
Michelle is a Non-executive director for Williamstown Football Club, an Ambassador for Honour a Woman, Respect Victoria and Flexible Working Day. She has held executive leadership roles ASX & FTSE listed companies NAB, Telstra and Serco during her 30-year career.
Michelle was named City of Melbourne B3000 Female Entrepreneur of the Year (2019), is a proud recipient of the AFR 100 Women of Influence Award (2018).
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