The coronavirus pandemic hit a lot of employers and employees hard – but studies have found women workers are disproportionately negatively impacted.
Between service job layoffs and the absence of many child care options, about two million women have been driven out of the workforce to stay home with the kids, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
African-American and Latina women have been impacted the most, with a disproportionately high number neither working or actively looking for work.
Employment experts say this mass exodus will hold dire consequences for women’s long-term career prospects and hurt the long-fought battle for equal pay.
Not to mention, this will cause major staffing issues for employers who are already dealing with the impact of The Great Resignation.
Diversity is key
If you’re like most employers, you might wonder what you can do about this. But you don’t have to stand idly by as women exit the workplace.
Studies have consistently shown that a diverse workforce is incredibly beneficial, with positives ranging from higher efficiency to better problem solving and financial performance.
Not only that, but it’s a risky legal move to do nothing about this issue.
If your company is seen as male-dominated, it can lead to gender discrimination claims – and the last thing you want to do is discourage female candidates from applying for or accepting a job.
It’s crucial for employers to act now and think of tangible ways they can begin to address this issue before it’s too late.
Here are four best practices to ensure your company is supporting women and offering them the tools they need to succeed right now, courtesy of the employment law attorneys of the firm Epstein Becker Green.
1. Evaluate output only
When working remotely, women tend to have family care responsibilities fall on them more than men. So while your male employees may be able to work uninterrupted all day, female workers may have to get up during meetings to attend to a baby or help older kids with their virtual schoolwork.
Be flexible, and don’t hold it against your women workers if they can’t attend every Zoom meeting or if they work odd hours. Focus on the work they’re producing instead of availability or hours clocked.
2. Conduct exit interviews
The best way to understand what’s pushing women out the door is to ask them. Encourage your people to speak candidly about why they’re leaving. Many often will speak more freely once they’re no longer on the payroll.
To be more proactive, instead of waiting until women have already left, conduct anonymous surveys before people start leaving so you have a chance to retain them. This can allow you to nip any problems in the bud. You can’t fix issues if you don’t know what they are.
3. Consider a virus leave policy
While paid leave offered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired, employers can still offer COVID-specific leave for their employees.
Twelve weeks of paid leave to help care for family members can be incredibly helpful for women balancing home and work responsibilities, and can help keep them engaged and contributing.
4. Focus on fixing the system
It’s important that the responsibility isn’t placed on women to figure out how to help themselves. The system is what’s broken – not the way women are handling this.
Instead of spending valuable time training employees on time management, form practices designed to support them in what they need. Women want to be able to balance home and work duties – and it’s up to you to help them.
And while the above practices are pandemic-focused, there are more ways employers can support women in the workplace all the time.
Here are some additional tips courtesy of Timely.com:
- Achieve equal pay. This one is simple — if your company currently has a wage gap, pay men and women the same salary for the same jobs. Women will be more likely to stay at the company when they’re paid fairly.
- Ask for women’s opinions. A big part of feeling respected in the workplace is feeling heard. Employers should make sure women are given the opportunity to speak, and are listened to. This means being vigilant at meetings if male colleagues attempt to interrupt women or “steal” their point.
- Have a zero tolerance approach on sexism. Set the tone for an inclusive workplace by showing employees no sexism will be tolerated, including “jokes” and seemingly harmless remarks. This also includes looking out for unconscious gender bias, such as unfair dress codes.
- Don’t ask about women’s private lives. Keep conversations professional. Don’t ask women things like when they’re planning on getting married or having kids — and don’t assume their personal life plans will affect their career plans.