From entry-level positions to CEOs, Women make up a relevant segment of the workforce. However, more than 2 million women left the workforce during a pandemic, many because of job cuts and others because they could not balance their careers with added household and childcare responsibilities. And not all of them would be joining back. As per data by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), there are still over 1 million fewer women at work as of January 2022 than there were in February 2020.
Companies post-pandemic are facing a steep talent shortage, and to bring back women, they will have to introduce new policies and strategies.
Here are some tips for employers to consider!
1. Consider Various Roles of Women
Companies should conduct an employee survey to understand the needs of women in the workplace. Do one-on-one meetings with them, and conduct forums for idea sharing. They should also consider the different roles women play (their other identities), their marital status if they have kids, their race, culture, etc. Actively listen to their pain points, and create policies keeping in mind the various needs of women.
2. Have More Women in Leadership Roles
One of the best ways to support women is to have more women in leadership positions. And they will ensure that women’s interests are taken care of. Companies should not only hire women for leadership roles but should also nurture their careers. As per McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. This gap further widened when working women were forced to quit or reduce their working hours due to a lack of school & childcare options during a pandemic. Thus, resulting in fewer chances of them being promoted at work.
3. Do Away with Biases
Women continue to experience bias as they navigate their careers. As per research, men apply to jobs where they meet 60% of the qualifications while women only apply to jobs where they meet 100% of the qualifications. Research shows full-time working mothers experience a wage ‘penalty,’ making 11% less than women without children. Full-time working fathers, however, actually experience a wage ‘bonus,’ making 22% more than men without children. Also, companies should remove pandemic gap year bias, and should not discriminate against women who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hiring should be done based on skillsets and past-work experience. Employers should ensure that women are treated equitably and aren’t punished for their absences once they return post-pandemic. To do away with all the biases, it’s important to actively listen to the pain points of women, try to bring in new policies to meet the unique needs of women, and reshape the company’s culture.
4. Make Performance a Priority Not Hours
The pandemic has reinforced the importance of flexibility in creating the optimal work-life balance. Companies should not enforce rigid working hours, considering that employees have families and lives outside of work. Flexible schedules should be allowed as long as work is getting done because women have to juggle additional household responsibilities & kids at home. Companies should reconcile flexibility with performance metrics and think of creative ways of evaluating people.
As per Saugata Gupta, the managing director, and CEO at Marico – flexible organizations will be in a better position to attract talent. “If people with skill and talent who had moved out join back, it will be good for the country and the economy.”
5. Create an Inclusive & Diverse Workplace
A gender-inclusive workplace starts with a hiring process. Make an inclusive recruitment process a part of the company’s DNA. Inclusion is one of the important keys to retention. When the employees feel that their ideas are truly valued and supported, they stay with the company for the long term. Inclusive work culture will not only help the company to attract diverse talent but will also help to retain it. To start with, you can introduce a feedback form to rank the company’s work culture relating to gender equality. Barring gender, you should also be inclusive in various other ways, and focus on getting the right person for the role, regardless of anything else.
6. Introduce More Women-Oriented Policies
Companies should introduce more woman-centric policies like POSH, maternity-related policies, on-site childcare options, flexible work options, special leaves, and policies for the safety of women. Creating such policies will strengthen the trust of women in the organizations and increase the retention rate. And educate women about these policies so that they can leverage them and enjoy a fulfilling career while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Organizations should create a conducive work environment for women to help them climb the ladder of success and excel at their roles.