How the tech industry must respond to COVID-19’s effect on women in the workforce
This blog originally was featured in HR Daily Advisor
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on people, organizations, and regions in different ways. But when it comes to the workforce, women have been disproportionately affected. According to a study by McKinsey, women’s jobs have been 180% more vulnerable than men’s due to the weight of unpaid care. Many women are even leaving their jobs altogether to balance their at-home responsibilities effectively.
In the tech landscape, women already make up too small percentage of the workforce, especially in leadership positions. We can’t afford this pandemic to set us back any further, and we need to adjust our companies to champion women whose lifecycles have changed due to these unprecedented times.
In 2021, companies will look at how women’s lifestyles have changed due to the pandemic and act accordingly. For example, while COVID-19 may have helped close the gender gap in some ways, it’s causing new stresses in others. On both a large and small scale across so many of our day-to-day tasks, we’ll continue to feel these side effects as we head into the new year and beyond, and we need to be prepared to handle this future accordingly.
Let’s take a look at how companies and women in tech, like myself, can empower our fellow employees to combat the lasting implications of COVID-19.
Be the role model you wish you had
The past few decades have demonstrated the strength and determination women have to break the glass ceiling, while simultaneously performing the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities. However, now is not the time for anyone to try to make it on their own. As managers and executive leaders, we need to show other women they can do it and pay it forward based on their own experiences. We need to encourage women and enable empathy not just for themselves, but for each other, so they can progress in both their careers and lives, despite all they’re dealing with on nearly every front.
Of course, the conversation about returning to the office is also on everyone’s minds, causing anxiety for many. It's up to executive teams to share long-term plans covering both the emotional and physical aspects of the new normal. Given all the uncertainties, employees aren't expecting their leaders to have all the answers. Still, they expect transparency and a concerted effort to establish a plan that reflects an understanding of the challenges they’re facing.
Beyond this, it’s time to pause and rethink our daily interactions with our teams. Acknowledge that people are doing their best, respect boundaries and remember that global organizations are all experiencing varying degrees of lockdown. Flexibility, sensitivity and empathy are critical.
Build a healthy ecosystem for employees – both in the office and at home
One positive point that a remote work experience has brought us all is the same size square on video collaboration tools like Zoom. Now that we are in a mostly virtual environment with what feels like significantly reduced hierarchy in many organizations, we must embrace this new ecosystem and ensure its impact is here to stay. As tech companies struggle with attracting, retaining and progressing women, we must provide a culture of inclusion and innovation, including the realization that there are more responsibilities beyond work.
Additionally, we need to ensure those who were forced to leave their roles receive the training and support they need after they return to the workforce. There are many ways to offer a supportive culture, and these changes will not happen overnight. We’ve now had time to prepare for future disruptions, but it's most important to take what we have learned over the past few months and communicate our progress and plans to employees.
The importance of digital inclusion
Remote work has shown us that roles, responsibilities, and requirements for jobs aren’t as uncompromising as we may have thought, leading to a more balanced ecosystem across the board. We need to evolve — flexible working is a must for all genders, as is ongoing training to keep confidence levels high at this disruptive time.
As a woman in tech, I am confident and optimistic. Confident that the workplace's future will put a heightened focus on making women feel comfortable and heard, and optimistic that I will be one of the women at the forefront to make sure these changes come to fruition. Whatever your part may be in the workplace, be a good role model. One who is transparent, empathetic, and tech-driven will help women succeed as we enter 2021.