The pandemic and working women - my hope for women in 2021 and beyond
As we pass the halfway mark of International Women’s Month 2021, I feel like our country is making strides toward being back to “normal.” Vaccines have been developed and are becoming more widely available, plans to lift restrictions are being made and kids are going back to school.
But even with things starting to feel more “normal,” I am concerned for women throughout the world. COVID put added pressure everyone, but especially women. And many strides we have made over the last few decades have started to erode after just 12 months of pandemic chaos.
The pandemic’s effects on working women
There is no question the pandemic hit working women hard, especially women of color.
Lack of affordable (and available) childcare forced many women to make career changes or leave the workforce altogether. Remote learning added more burdens to women, who had to be their child’s teacher as well as an employee, mother and wife. In fact, in states where remote learning was the highest, women were more likely to leave the workforce to tend to their children’s needs.
A report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research noted that 11.5 million women lost their jobs compared to nine million men between February and May 2020. Another 865,000 left the labor market between August and September 2020, which is four times the number of men no longer employed or looking for work. (Forbes, Where have all the women gone? 2021). The National Women’s Law Center calculates that more than 2.3 women have left the workforce in total since February 2020, which is the lowest labor participation rate of women since 1988. (NBC News, Lost jobs, less pay, no childcare: A year into the pandemic, women are not OK.) A McKinsey report shows that while women make up 39% of global jobs, they accounted for 54% of job losses.
Another study, this one from Qualtrics and Boardlist, found that women felt less productive working from home, whereas men felt that working from home positively impacted their careers. Women also are feeling more work-life balance challenges and feel the pandemic is harming their careers.
Resilience and determination of women
Despite the grim numbers, I know that women are strong, resilient and determined. And because of that, I have hope for women in 2021 and beyond. That hope stems from the work of many strong women that have come before us to work for women’s rights. It comes from the strong women I call friends, business associates, historical pioneers. And it comes from my own personal experiences and drive to help women be successful.
My hopes for women
So, as we make our way out of the pandemic, I have many hopes for women in 2021 and beyond.
1. I hope women can make up for the career sacrifices they made during the pandemic.
2. I hope that our governments can find a way to make childcare more affordable.
3. I hope that women-owned businesses will continue to have access to the same resources as men.
4. I hope that companies will recognize the impact of the pandemic on women of color and focus on efforts to accelerate their return to the workforce through hiring initiatives and supportive policies.
5. I hope that bosses recognize the added stress women have been under during the pandemic and will provide supportive environments (mental health services, time off, etc.).
6. I hope women don’t lose their seats at the table. And for those that did, I hope they have the confidence to leave that job and find another where they are valued.
7. I hope women gain MORE seats at the table.
8. I hope dads who took on more responsibility while working at home continue to support their partners even after they BOTH go back to the office.
9. I hope those same dads have a better appreciation of their partners after seeing what it takes to run a household and raise, feed, educate and support a child.
10. I hope women who need mental health care will actively seek it and realize that doing so does not mean they are not weak, but strong.
11. I hope women set personal goals that are solely focused on themselves instead of goals that benefit others.
12. I hope women learn to say no to the things that don’t serve them.
13. I hope women can learn to tell their family on a busy day that they are on their own for dinner.
14. I hope women learn to clear their calendar of things that don’t get them closer to personal and professional goals.
15. I hope women learn that self-care doesn’t mean they are selfish.
16. I hope women stop trying to be perfect in everything they do and accept that “fine” is good enough.
17. I hope women can learn to stop apologizing for not getting it all done.
18. I hope women will continue to support each other.
19. I hope women can look back on the pandemic, congratulate themselves on getting through it and recognize that they accomplished more than they ever thought possible.
20. And finally, I hope for the day when we can see the important women in our lives in person, give them big hugs and tell them how much they mean to us.
It’s been a tough year for everyone – especially working women. As we celebrate International Women’s Month in 2021, we need to recognize the integral role women have played in the pandemic, honor the strong women who came before us and fought for women’s rights, and support women who are struggling because of the pandemic. By doing those three things, we will all be stronger.