A practical guide to bridging the COVID gender gap
Decades of workplace gender equality progress are under threat since the beginning of COVID19. Research shows that women have been struggling to strike a balance with childcare, homeschooling, and housework more than men since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Research has indicated that the paid hours worked by women who are still employed have plummeted by half more than for men, with women cutting back their hours by 11.5% as compared with 7.5% for male employees, These statistics are concerning and there is a huge cultural shift that needs to happen to stop us reversing the efforts of briefing the gender gap in recent years
We know that things like diversity and inclusion programs tend to go backwards during recessions and crises. With women dropping out of the labour market in disproportionately high numbers, there is a danger that some of them will be locked out of work for good. Women are more targeted by redundancy and furlough than men, partly because they tend to be in more junior positions and partly because of unconscious bias associated with women as being the main caregiver at home. Women are also the majority of workers in healthcare, education, and social services and these sectors have been hit hardest by COVID19. Is the next generation of women set-back? Can anything be done to reverse the gender gap? Thankfully there are some practical steps that can be implemented by organisations to bridge the gender gap in the workplace during COVID19:
1) Reskilling women for employment in high growth sectors
Even before COVID, structural shifts that were increasing demand for particular skills were underway. Technological progress was expected to bring significant change in demand for particular roles in the workforce.
Demand for ICT specialists as well as for “future skills” are rising. Demand is expected to decline for administrative roles. Companies must re-train and future-proof their female workforce by offering training focusing on ICT skills and other skills on the rise.
To show their commitment to bridging the gender gap, businesses should offer to upskill their female employees toward future-skill-growth areas.
2) Partnering with local authorities and government
Organisations should seek support from the government and local authorities to create incentives that will help reshape economies to be more equitable for women. In return for financial support—such as tax rebates—during the crisis, governments can require businesses to invest in training and upskilling their female workforce.
3) Reviewing support for mothers In the workplace
Organisations should offer childcare support for working mothers including financial contributions to childcare and flexible working hours.
Companies must ensure they provide adequate pumping space for new mothers. Organisations should encourage a community for working mothers by creating a working mother Employee Resource Group (ERG) and slack channel. These ‘working mother’ communication channels will be a valuable resource where working mums can connect, share resources and tips and find community support while working. Businesses should update their parental leave policy.
Leading Tech companies such as Netflix have extended their parental leave policies in order to retain and attract top talent. Companies should review their plan to reintegrate new mothers. By offering reduced hours during the first few months and by communicating with mothers-to-be and existing mothers, organisations can create a better working environment to better meet the needs of working mothers.
4) Promoting women into leadership positions
By setting goals for women in leadership positions, organisations show a real commitment in action to bridge the gender gap. Ideally, the leadership team should have such goals that are assessed during performance reviews and attached to bonuses and promotions.
A meaningful goal that will achieve equal representation in leadership positions should be 50% of the leadership being female. This metric should be assessed on a monthly basis and actions should be implemented to move the organisation towards that goal.
5) Developing Continuing Diversity and Inclusion Training
Many organisations lean on mandatory unconscious bias training to help with diversity and inclusion. However, a one-off mandatory training can have a limited ability to change behaviour. In fact, mandatory training can even be met with resistance, as people do not like to feel pressured. However, offering training as voluntary and offering recurring, repeating training can have a greater impact on changing behaviour because employees feel they are in control. In addition, voluntary training programmes demonstrate a signal of commitment to inclusion. Many diversity training programmes are delivered online which makes them accessible to remote-workers, like our bespoke diversity training. These continuing diversity and inclusion training will raise awareness about women’s challenges in the workplace and will have a positive impact on women’s retention and promotion to leadership positions
The impact of COVID on women’s career is widely recognised. The focus should be on what can be done to prevent the COVID gender gap. Practical steps can be implemented by organisations today. Companies investing today in women’s careers will double the engagement and retention of their female workforce, which will allow them to rise to the top of their industry.
How we can help
At Inspired Human, we provide high-quality diversity and inclusion consultancy services to help organisations boost workplace inclusion and diversity so that they will notice a tangible difference in behaviour. Take the first step by booking an hour-long initial diversity and inclusion consultation today, free of charge.