Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces have been turned upside down and employees have struggled with new challenges presented.
Research shows that women, especially women of color, have felt adverse effects in comparison to their male counterparts including experiencing furlough at higher rates – putting their careers and financial security at risk. The U.S. Department of Labor shows that the adult women employment rate reached 54.3% during the pandemic, the lowest it’s been since September 1988. In addition, there were 7.2% fewer adult Black women, 5.9% fewer adult Hispanic women, and 4.8% fewer adult white women employed in June 2021 than before the pandemic in February 2020.
The effects on women in the workforce have bled beyond their careers but are present in homelife as well. Women are still primarily the primary caretaker for children and the household around the world, so the suspension of support systems like childcare forced millions of women to downshift their careers or leave the workplace entirely. In fact, 80% of the 1.1 million people who exited the workforce in September 2020 were women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This current moment is critical as it’s an opportunity to develop and define the new normal for women in the workforce. Not only is it a chance for the private sector to gain much needed gender diversity to make up for two years of loss, but also companies must act as to not further risk of losing the valuable contributions female leaders have worked so hard for over the last century.
The aftermath of COVID-19 presents the U.S. and the global private sector with a unique opportunity to prove their commitment to retaining female talent and create additional opportunities like never before.
For this to succeed, companies must think with intersectionality and invest beyond diversity solely in gender, to include diversity in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more. A diverse representation leads to sustainable change and more effective policies. Studies have proven that when women of all backgrounds are involved and valued in the workplace, businesses thrive.
The McKinsey Global Institute reported that the global GDP could increase by $12 trillion by 2025 if every country narrowed its gender gap at the same rate as the nation that has improved the fastest in its peer group. Additional studies corroborate this showing that women possess the strong leadership qualities that are essential to strengthen businesses. In 2019, Harvard Business Review conducted a survey that showed women scored significantly higher than their male counterparts on 17 of 19 core skills, concluding that women are “thought to be more effective in 84% of the competencies.” This report shows women outperforming their coequals in areas like taking initiative, communicating powerfully and prolifically, and driving for results.
Meridian is committed to continuing our work providing opportunities for women and girls to advance and realizes that the choices the world makes now not only affect today but will also influence the future of communities and corporations for generations to come.
We are fortunate enough to work alongside many exceptional companies that are actively striving to achieve gender equality in the workplace through the Meridian Corporate Council.
Brittany Masalosalo, Global Head of Government Relations at HP, Inc. stated:
“Over the last few decades, we have seen tremendous gains in creating workplaces and spaces that encourage women’s professional growth. Companies understand that women are valuable contributors and should be given full opportunity to shine. This manifests in ways such as flexible work schedules, on-site daycares, proper parental leave policies, and even dependent care savings opportunities.
The onset of the pandemic was a monkey-wrench because all our workspaces changed – and women were disproportionally impacted as we are still by-and-large the fabric of our homes. However, as we are coming out of the pandemic and transitioning into a new normal, I think we are going to see more deliberate efforts to encourage women professionals. Employers and managers understand that all people are at their best when they have a healthy balance between work and home. As companies strive to enable this balance, women will find more support, more resources, and more opportunities to thrive at work. I’m optimistic that not only we will recover from the COVID-19 setbacks, but we will leap ahead in many ways.”
Nichole Francis Reynolds, Vice President and Global Head of Government Relations at ServiceNow, stated:
“I would share three pieces of advice to young women who are just entering the workforce. The first piece of advice is to remember that they stand on the shoulders of giants – trailblazing women who paved the way for them to be a success in the workplace! The second piece of advice is to develop a cabinet of advisors – identify a few individuals in and outside of the workplace who have their best interest at heart and are willing to serve as mentors and sponsors as they progress throughout their career. The third piece of the advice is to bloom where they are planted – use their experiences, skills and perspectives to thrive and soar in their respective roles!”
Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer at Google, stated:
Google’s investment in the success of its female employees is embodied by the women in our senior leadership, including our Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat, our Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. Their leadership sets the tone from the top and demonstrates that when women lead, even or especially in traditionally male-dominated industries, all women can thrive.
To ensure that women at all levels and across all teams within Google have the resources and support they need for success, we have a Women@Google grasstops employee community group that provides networking and mentoring opportunities, professional development, and community to Googler women across 52 countries