How to Support Your Female Employees 19 Months Into the Pandemic
COVID-19 has had a particularly negative impact on working women, causing many to leave the workforce or experience job dissatisfaction. Use these tips to re-engage women at your association.
Throughout the pandemic, reports have shown that working women have been hit particularly hard. Many women have left the workforce thanks to a combination of caregiving needs and disruption in “pink collar” industries such as retail; in fact, virtually all job losses in December 2020 were among women. Nineteen months into the pandemic, female workers aren’t faring much better, and many haven’t returned to work even in sectors that have stabilized.
“Caregiving responsibilities fall mostly on women. When there has to be a choice between who’s going to homeschool or take care of the children, it’s usually going to be a woman,” says M. Gloria Gonzalez-Morales, director of the Worker Wellbeing Lab, a feminist research group devoted to helping employees flourish. “And there is a gender wage gap. If you have a conversation with your partner, who’s going to [quit] and do that? Well, the person who earns less. It’s a vicious cycle for women.”
Knowing this, it’s imperative that associations adjust their operations and workplace culture to more effectively support their female employees, particularly during this time. Consider these tips to create an organizational environment that champions your female employees.
Offer True Flexibility
Because women often juggle a number of responsibilities, a mandatory return to the office and a rigid 9-to-5 schedule might force them to put their careers on hold. That’s why Gonzalez-Morales recommends that organizations give employees autonomy over their schedules so they can find the right work-life balance.
If your employees can work remotely, let them choose how often they come into the office, work outside of typical business hours, and transition between work and home responsibilities throughout the day, as long as they meet deadlines.
Gonzalez-Morales points out that it’s not enough to provide a hybrid work model; organizations also must value remote workers and trust employees to use their autonomy for good. That means evaluating workers on performance, not presence.
It also means managers should give employees space instead of micromanaging them to make sure they’re working every second of the 9-to-5 workday. Leadership must communicate that the organization accepts and encourages flexibility.
“Make it clear that you value the work that’s done during any time of the day or in any type of environment,” Gonzalez-Morales says. “If not, people will keep thinking, ‘Oh, people that do telework probably don’t work that much.’”
Provide Relevant Resources and Services
Benefits and in-office services centered on family care and flexibility can help working women. Organizations could expand their parental leave policies to include a stipend for child care costs, as the Gates Foundation did in 2019.
In addition, consider adding day care to employee benefits, where either your organization subsidizes day care costs or employees get time off for child care responsibilities. Larger organizations can even explore onsite day care options. You can also make physical changes to the office, such as turning some private spaces into lactation rooms, which give nursing mothers a chance to relax and pump milk without interruption.
Create Team-Building Opportunities for Remote Workers
Establish an environment where remote and in-person employees have equal opportunities to attend events, network, and develop relationships with colleagues. Halting virtual experiences as you go back to in-person events might alienate your female workforce.
“There are people that used to be unable to go to conferences because of caregiving responsibilities or they didn’t have enough funding to travel for business,” Gonzalez-Morales says. “People now have access to these events, and a lot of organizations are now going, ‘No, no, no, it’s going to be fully in person [again].”
Keep remote employees connected to the rest of the team by continuing to provide ways to attend events and happy hours virtually. Giving all employees a chance to participate will help establish a culture of inclusion, which can engage female employees who might be experiencing job dissatisfaction.
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