Millions of women were forced to leave the workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. Most had to homeschool their children or care for a sick family member. This amplifies the biases women face in the workplace that impact career growth. Women tend to face higher performance standards, narrower paths to promotions, and penalties for taking advantage of flexible work options. They often are discouraged from advancement because of daily interactions and conversations with coworkers. These are reasons why leaders need to make changes now to build a more equitable workplace.
Implement these methods to help close the gender gap that was increased by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Emphasize Open Communication
Encourage leadership to have ongoing conversations with employees about their daily experiences. For instance, have them find out what it is like for a working mother to manage her child’s remote schooling. Also, discuss how these challenges are increased for single parents and women of color who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, talk about what your employees honestly think about your company’s policies; if flex work is available but rarely used, uncover why. There may be a cultural barrier that discourages it. Plus, find the most effective option to gain transparent employee feedback. An anonymous survey may be the best way to have them talk honestly about their workplace experience or promotion potential.
Demonstrate Empathy in Leadership
Remind leaders to show empathy when interacting with employees. In addition to having a full-time job, most working mothers take primary responsibility for child care, schooling, and household management. This means they may handle three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. It also means women often are viewed as “unfocused” or “uncommitted” when a child is seen or heard during a Zoom call. As a result, leaders need to adjust their performance expectations to align with what can be reasonably expected from employees. They also should talk with their teams about how unconscious bias can affect a person’s perceptions of others, which can adversely impact their career growth. Leaders also should point out that everyone is doing their best and deserves to be treated with respect.
Review Company Policies
Go over your family and medical leave policy to see how it affects women and minorities. Determine whether the policy is being used when needed. If not, you need to make changes. This may include forming an employee resource group for working parents to connect and gain support for remote schooling and work challenges.
Promote Women to Leadership Roles
When women are better represented in leadership positions, they tend to hire more women throughout the organization. This means that more women have opportunities to gain the skills and experience required to advance their careers. It also draws female candidates to the organization who are looking for leaders, mentors, and equal pay for their work.
Hire Female Professionals
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