May 12, 2022

Empower women in the workplace with individualized support

If there’s a silver lining to the massive disruptions at work over the last two years, it might be that all of the inequities and power struggles inherent in many organizational systems have been completely laid bare. One of these long-standing tensions is gender parity. Women have been significantly impacted by the effects of the pandemic, work from home life, and the all-around disruption to what was already a precarious balance.  Much of this tension is attributed to the fact that women are responsible for the majority of caregiving. In the spring of 2020, some “3.5 million mothers living with school-age children left active work — either shifting into paid or unpaid leave, losing their job, or exiting the labor market all together.”

In Reshma Saujani’s new book, Pay Up, she writes, “We must take apart everything we know and assume about women and work and put the pieces back together in a completely reimagined configuration.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eighty percent of the workers who left the labor force in September 2020 were women. With this unprecedented disruption, leaders and organizations everywhere have the opportunity to make significant shifts toward supporting women who have been most affected. 

Statistics on the state of women in the workforce: 

From a historical context, these statistics have trended in the right direction for women at large, but when we start breaking it down into the intersectional identities of women, whether they be women of color, LGBTQ+ identified women, or women with disabilities, we can see that the problems get more acute. 

According to a recent McKinsey report

  • Women of color account for only 4 percent of C-suite leaders, a number that hasn’t moved significantly in the past three years. 
  • Women are burning out at a much higher rate than men.
  • LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities are also significantly more likely than women overall to experience microaggressions. Women with disabilities are much more likely than women overall to have their competence challenged or to be undermined at work.

Add one pandemic, minus childcare, equals fewer women in the workforce

At the beginning of an ongoing pandemic, when many people began their work-from-home journeys and lost any semblance of childcare, one in four women considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their career. Now, in 2022, that stat has risen to one in three women considering leaving or downshifting: a sizable increase. With a continued lack of support, working mothers are pressed to find long-term solutions to the ongoing conundrum. 

It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a 25% jump in anxiety disorders, a 41% increase in alcohol consumption among women, and a threefold increase in mental health struggles compared to men across 38 countries, according to Reshma Saujani’s book, Pay Up

Here’s what leaders can do to better support women

As with most workplace maladies, the solution starts with culture. Create a culture that fully leverages the benefits of diversity— one in which women, and all employees, feel comfortable bringing their unique ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the table. There is incredible social wealth and innovation to be had when diverse thought is celebrated and encouraged. Ensure that promotions are equitable by putting more checkpoints into the policies and pathways for promotion. It’s essential to continually audit the promotion pathways that exist and scan for opportunities where biases may creep in. Double down on accountability. From McKinsey: “Despite saying that gender and racial diversity are among their most important business priorities, only two-thirds of companies hold senior leaders accountable for progress on diversity goals, and less than a third hold managers—who play a critical role in hiring and promotions decisions—accountable.”

Employees are likely still struggling to adjust to these “unprecedented times” even after two years of rising to the challenges that have been presented. At Bravely, 60% of our coaching sessions are with female-identified employees at every level. By offering individualized support tailored to each employee’s specific needs and circumstances, leaders can provide a care team for their employees. Working parents especially benefit from the on-demand nature of Bravely coaching and the ability to workshop their challenges one-on-one in a confidential setting. If we are to move the needle in the world of work for women, it’s imperative that leaders recognize the unique challenges of that half of the population rather than fighting to get back to the way things were. 

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