As if juggling a family, household, workout routine, hobbies, and career wasn’t enough, throw a pandemic into the mix to challenge your role as a working woman. All of the sudden, women in the workforce are taking on new roles. Including, homeschooler and full-time caregiver while attempting to concentrate on reports and sit in on zoom meetings. Forget 9-5 and a work-life balance – it’s all work all of the time.
If you haven’t worked from home on a regular basis, you’ve had to face new challenges due to the pandemic. These might include carving out a quiet space in your home, making sure you have enough internet to handle everyone’s needs, or trying to develop a new routine.
If you are lucky, you have a plan for their basic care and help from someone to handle kiddo duties. Every mom knows that feeding, cleaning up after them, disciplining them, and helping them adhere to their homeschool schedules is a full-time job in itself. Add the pressure of your boss wanting things “as normal as possible” and something is going to eventually give.
Women faced challenges in the workforce before the pandemic and they continue to lag behind their male counterparts. Dubbed the “she-cession”, women these days are more likely to lose or leave their jobs. The reasons for this range from the inability to juggle family responsibilities to their jobs being eliminated or restricted by government regulations – think the hospitality and restaurant sectors. Also, mothers are more likely to walk away from their jobs due to childcare and virtual school obligations.
Solutions to accommodate the unique challenges of being a woman in the workforce often fall short. Employers expect men and women to be on equal fronts in the workplace, but that is far from the case. Traditional roles dictate the childcare and education fall upon the mother. While we’ve made huge strides in equality, it’s often the woman needs special treatment or family leave time due to family responsibilities.
The Advantages of Women in the Workforce
While we have thus far focused on the challenges of women in workforce, there are some distinct characteristics of women as employees that should be cherished and nurtured. While women need a job that fits well with the other parts of their life, loyalty comes from being heard and making a difference.
Women tend to be more creative, think outside the box and thrive in problem solving situations. Their perspective, passion, and intuition are important in reaching customers. An inclusive workforce involving women and other minority groups creates a well-rounded workplace.
An employer who invests in their workforce will find their return on investment positively affected. Women are great communicators who unite teams, encourage different viewpoints, and make sensible decisions that affect the bottom line.
How Employers Can Support Women in the Workforce
Women in the workforce face challenges due to the pandemic and other underlying factors, but there are things that employers can do to support them. Being aware of the problems women face and a willingness to do something about it is the first step. The Hopkins Group has HR specific solutions geared to solve these challenges. It should be noted that even if we get back to “normal”, some of the problems women face will not immediately go away. Programs like these are an investment for the long run.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great place to start. They can offer relief from mental anxieties as well as options for those dealing with unusual circumstances. For example, EAP programs can offer financial counseling, legal and family advice, grief counseling, and advice on caregiving. Offered to employees at no cost, it is a confidential avenue for advice.
With the pandemic, women are faced with losing their child’s schooling and daycare options. Offering solutions to these issues can be addressed with subsidies. These can work in two ways – either direct payments to employees with children so they can decide how to spend the money or offering childcare subsidies directly to specific care centers or childcare workers.
As mentioned, the most important issue that creates loyalty from women employees is flexibility in work space and place. Remote work and flexible work programs are the wave of the future, pandemic or not. The Hopkins Group can help facilitate how this looks. This might include help in setting up equipment and suggesting guidelines for the home office. Often office workers flounder when first confronted with working outside the cubicle environment. Meetings, work environment, and communication with bosses are all different. A well thought-out plan can help manage expectations.
Realize that everyone is facing a unique situation. If supervision of homeschooling is involved, a flexible schedule is appreciated. Perhaps longer lunch breaks or working early or late hours could be considered. Working within the confines of the corporate schedule might be tricky, but the effort is welcome.
Sometimes, an employee just can’t juggle it all, so offering job share programs or paid leave programs can ease the burden. Additionally, the wage gap can be helped by employers offering to pay student loan debts.
There are Solutions
The pandemic has resulted in situations many employers and employees never thought they’d deal with. Many companies made tough decisions based on knee-jerk reactions. As a result, women have had to make difficult choices, which may set them back in the long run. Setting up HR solutions outlined above is sound advice for any company and gives everyone options.
While we’d all like to snap our fingers and have this over with, we need to be realistic. If it’s not a pandemic, it might be something else and it’s best to have a contingency plan in place. Do you want to make your work environment more supportive for women? Schedule a free consultation with one of our HR consultants.