How Has COVID-19 Impacted Working Womxn?

McKinsey & Company – Women in the Workplace Report 2020

McKinsey and Company sponsored The Lola’s January Mini-Conference. Our theme for the month: What is Our Why and Values-Driven Goals. Our Mainstage speaker, Mekala Krishnan from McKinsey, discussed the latest Women in the Workplace report. While the information was somewhat bleak, we found a lot to be hopeful about plus insights and tools to get us to a better place.

Womxn, especially, have been impacted by the pandemic. 1 in 4 womxn are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, and many mothers are facing a “double-double shift” where they are spending an additional 15 hours per week on household work than before the pandemic. Womxn in senior positions are more likely to leave the workforce, a loss that would be felt at all levels, and Black womxn are even more likely now to be the “only-only” – the only womxn and only Black person in the room.

However, the pandemic could provide opportunities for companies to hire and retain diverse people. Remote work allows companies to consider more candidates from across the country, provide flexible work hours and provide holistic support for employee wellbeing. This would be an overall plus for womxn in the workplace and would not only help retain womxn that are already working at these companies but also potentially recruit more.

Highlights from the talk:

  • Since 2015, the number of womxn in C-Suite has grown from 17-22%
  • 9/10 companies have made at least some effort through the pandemic to improve flexibility and increase access to mental healthcare
  • However, 1 in 4 are still considering leaving / downsizing: 2M+ could exit the workforce and 6 years of progress could be erased

Why are womxn leaving the workplace?

  • Anxiety over layoffs/ furlough – 31%
  • Burnout – 28%
  • Mental Health – 23%
  • Childcare/homeschooling – 21%
  • Physical/mental health of loved ones – 20%

Working womxn are also concerned about;

  • Their performance
  • Not able to bring their whole selves to work (particularly Black womxn)
  • Exhausted and burned out. Being on 24/7 (particularly senior womxn)
  • Their discomfort sharing challenges
  • Feeling blindsided by decisions
  • Spending additional hours taking care of home
  • Companies not providing the flexibility they need

Womxn are taking on the bulk of the responsabilities at home

  • 40% spend an additional 15 hours per week on household responsibilities vs. prior to the pandemic
  • 2x more likely to feel like they’re being judged because of caregiving responsibilities
  • The double-double shift is untenable

Senior womxn are leaving the workforce

  • Senior womxn are more likely to leave the workforce than men – 1 in 4
  • Senior womxn take on a disproportionate amount of allyship work vs. senior men. Losing senior womxn is going to have a highly negative impact on gender/ racial equality in the workplace for years to come

The gap is widening for Black womxn

  • Black womxn are even more likely now to be the “only-only” – the only womxn and only Black person in the room
  • COVID is making the situation for Black womxn even worse – widening the gap
  • People say they are allies, but that doesn’t translate in reality. Employees want to help but don’t know how to help

What could the future of work look like?

There is some optimism about a reimagined workplace. The pandemic has changed the workplace and attitudes overnight. How do we reimagine the workplace so it’s not only different but better?
  • 93% of companies think more jobs can be performed remotely
  • 91% of companies will cut business travel
  • 77% of employees said they would work from home more than before
  • Lack of geographical constraints mean companies can diversify their hiring pool
  • Greater flexibility in work hours can help womxn balance work/life demands
  • Holistic support for wellbeing can create a more inclusive working space

What do we need to do to make work more sustainable?

  • Reset norms around flexibility
  • Take a closer look at performance reviews
  • Take steps to minimize gender bias
  • Adjust policies to better support employees
  • Strengthen employee communication
  • Take an intersectional approach to support the challenges Black womxn face
  • Foster a culture that supports and values Black womxn

Photos by: Mushaboom Studios

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