While many organizations are taking steps to alleviate the
disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women in their workforces, a recent survey
by the Institute of Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found
that among larger employers, the number of those taking action (42%) is nearly
equal to those organizations that are not (40%).
Of the 400 professionals who participated in the survey
exploring what employers are doing (if anything) to stem the tide of women
leaving their organizations, 256 represented large organizations (those with
we noted in August 2020, organizations are facing ongoing and compounding
crises, not the least of which is significant talent risk in the form of women
leaving the workforce. While women were already abandoning the workforce in
increasing numbers pre-COVID, according to data reported by the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics, 2.4 million women have left the labor force since the
pandemic began in early 2020. The reasons for these losses are varied, to
include the drastic contraction of industries that employ more women than men:
food service, hospitality, leisure, retail, travel, etc.
Even for organizations that could offer remote work to
employees, existing stressors for working parents, and especially working
mothers were magnified in 2020. These take many forms: Single mothers already supporting
themselves and their families while also carrying the bulk of family caregiving
responsibilities; lack of an adequate or affordable quality childcare system;
the pressure of school, daycare centers, and afterschool program closures, and
the expectation that work from home could be consistently workable and
effective for single parents.
It’s encouraging that some organizations recognize this and
have taken steps to do what they can to mitigate the disparate impact of the
pandemic on women. But it’s also concerning that nearly as many have not.
The past year has without a doubt demonstrated to
organizations how critical it is to rethink how they respond to crises and the
degree to which policies and benefits impact the ability of employees to be
effective in their roles as both workers and parents.
Lorrie Lykins is i4cp’s Vice President of Research