It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everybody in some way. However, as the pandemic has continued, the data has shown that women have been impacted even more significantly. With International Women’s Day approaching, we have an opportunity to not only celebrate this event in 2021, but use it as a catalyst for change for females in the workplace.
In this blog, we will be looking at this from the perspective of our own female employees at Medix, who have been able to work from home since March 2020. There are many, many stories and circumstances out there, so please keep in mind this is not a one-size-fits-all perspective.
How COVID-19 Hit Women’s Careers
Nothing conveys COVID-19’s impact on women quite like labor market data. According to Forbes, American women lost more than 5 million jobs, and 2.1 million women left the workforce altogether in 2020 since the pandemic began. Now in 2021, according to Fortune, women accounted for almost 80 percent of the U.S. adults who stopped working or quit looking for work in January. Then when you take a deeper dive, you will quickly see that it’s exponentially worse for women of color.
There are many reasons behind these jarring numbers, but the one that employers may be able to help with the most is the loss of many women’s work/life balance.
Balance Became Blended
For the women fortunate enough to be able to work from home, many found it was nearly impossible to separate their career from their other responsibilities.
“During the pandemic, I, and many others, had to step into all of our roles at once. A wife, mother, daughter, coworker, manager, teacher, mentor and teammate,” said Regina Dunning, Director of Client Experience at Medix. “What was once a balance became blended.”
Regina was far from alone. With school and childcare upended, many women lost their carefully crafted work-life balance. Taking on many responsibilities at once is a recipe for burnout, disengagement and poor physical and mental health. In worst-case-scenarios, this can lead to additions to that statistic we read earlier – women dropping out of the workforce completely.
What Companies Can Do to Support Female Employees
The ability to work from home has been a game-changer for many. However, to truly help female employees, there needs to be a layer of understanding and flexibility in the workplace culture. Medix’s Vice President of Human Resources, Megan Steiger, shared her advice:
- “Give your teammates a sense of certainty and a clear vision for future expectations, if possible. While this isn’t always simple, giving your female teammates insight into the path forward over the weeks and months ahead can help to alleviate anxiety around future childcare plans, school schedules and the health and safety of families as you look to return to offices in the future.
- Be inclusive of all family members at home, including furry friends, little ones, spouses/partners, etc. When women feel comfortable with overlapping boundaries between work and home, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work and feel more satisfied with their roles. Positively acknowledging and welcoming young children and barking pets will take the pressure off of women in trying to create the perfect work environment.
- Ask your female teammates what they need to be comfortable and successful, and listen with empathy. Even if your managers aren’t women or mothers, inviting women to talk about their experiences and ask for flexibility in their schedules, work environment and tasks can help with collaboration and developing stronger relationships to help everyone work better together. And then of course, be flexible when you can be as an organization! With morning and evening routines blurred with work demands, some women may need flexibility to accommodate individual schedules. Small adjustments and accommodations can make a world of a difference in ensuring your female teammates can manage (and enjoy!) their work.”
At Medix, we saw the opportunity to take a step further for female employees by creating the Women with Purpose (WWP) committee. This committee supports women at Medix by helping them grow their footprint in the company, achieve their career goals and make Medix a better place to work. This is accomplished through training webinars, networking events, mentorship programs and motivational circles of teammates.
“WWP creates a safe, inclusive, and inspiring tribe of diverse women who lead authentically,” said Gabriella Yarish, Director of Recruitment Operations and leader of WWP. “We are excited to continue to empower women to reach their fullest potential and to strive to become a better version of themselves.”
While working remote this past year was a challenge, many companies took it as an opportunity to evolve, which ultimately helped their female employees.
“This past year I have felt fortunate to have a support system that worked through the challenges together and allowed me to be grateful that I was employed, healthy and had an opportunity to watch my children grow in front of my eyes each day,” said Regina. “This past year allowed me to rethink the possibilities for achievement in every aspect of life. I imagine I will look back on these days truly recognizing the resilient, adaptable, creative and empathetic person that I grew into along the way.”
Again, it’s important to remember that this is just one story. Although this has a positive ending, many do not. Let’s take some inspiration from this year’s International Women’s Day theme – #ChoosetoChallenge – so we can continue breaking down barriers for all women to feel supported and empowered. There is a lot of work to be done, but seeing and acknowledging the issues is a big first step.
To learn more about International Women’s Day, please click here.