How to retain your female workforce during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be catastrophic for women – particularly for those with childcare or caregiver duties. As per McKinsey’s 2020 Women in the Workplace report, more than one in four women in the U.S. may end up downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the pandemic. This can have both short-term and long-term implications, necessitating a shift in mindset on behalf of employers to retain their female workforce, which this Pacific Prime article elaborates on.
Role of women in economic development
Before we look at how employers can retain their female workforce, it’s important to examine what tends to hold women back from joining the workforce. According to the International Labour Organization, the global labor force participation rate for women stands at close to 49%, while for men it’s 75%. While regional variations do exist, this gap is reflective of the barriers women face to employment, including pressure to adhere to traditional gender roles.
Not only does a more equal gender labor force participation rate give women economic empowerment, but it can also be a major boost to an economy’s gross domestic product (GDP). For example, Northern Africa could see GDP rise by 9.5% if gender gaps in the labor market are lowered by 2025, the region that has the most to gain. Nevertheless, even Northern America and Europe (Northern, Southern, and Western) could see a growth of 2%.
Impact of the pandemic on working women
As the pandemic forced countries to go into lockdown, many employees found themselves working remotely, as well as facing heightened stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. On top of this, childcare duties, as well as caregiver duties for the elderly and other vulnerable groups, have largely been shouldered by women throughout the pandemic, a sizable number of which may not be able to cope.
For instance, Boston Consulting Group’s survey of working parents in the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy found that:
- Women currently spend on average 15 hours more on domestic labor each week than men.
In light of this, we can make sense of the findings in McKinsey’s report that more than one in four women may downshift their careers or leave the workforce due to the pandemic. In the short term, this will affect household incomes. Moreover, the longer women remain out of the workforce, the harder it will be to get back in. As PayScale found, women also tend to face a pay penalty upon returning to work after an absence – 7% less on average for the same position.
4 tips to retain your female workforce
If you’re an employer hoping to retain your female workforce, and thus avoid the need for costly rehiring, the key tool is to have a shift in mindset to understand the importance of women’s work, empathize with their household responsibilities, as well as allow for enhanced flexibility in the workplace. This is because a lack of workplace flexibility is one of the top reasons that women feel compelled to leave the workforce. While this may seem like a vague goal, it can be achieved if you follow the four tips outlined below:
1. Create an environment where all employees feel supported
The first step is to create an environment that allows for employees to feel comfortable voicing their concerns, without fear of judgment or consequences. Employers can achieve this by establishing clear communication, recognizing hard work and good effort, as well as entrusting their staff.
2. Be proactive by reaching out to employees
In addition to creating an environment where all employees feel supported, employers should also be more proactive when it comes to employees who may be struggling. They can reach out to them to see what their needs are on a personal level through frequent surveys or one-to-one check-ins.
3. Reassess what a typical workday is and define how success is measured
Employers should also refrain from using the traditional 9 to 5 workday, where hours clocked-in is used as a sign of productivity, in favor of other measures of success. They should be clear on performance expectations and business outcomes, which will allow employees to meet goals and work more flexible hours.
4. Think outside the box when it comes to solutions
Based on their employees’ concerns and needs, as well as employers’ redefinition of success, out-of-the-box solutions can be brainstormed, considered, and implemented. There could be a number of solutions, including but not limited to the following:
- Shifting start and end times
- Changing meeting times, if possible
- Establishing a job share program
- Temporary leave, with a contractor to fill in the position
- And more.
Learn more about flexible working arrangements by downloading Pacific Prime’s Global Employee Benefits Trends Report 2020
In fact, flexible working arrangements is one of the top 6 employee benefit trends in 2020, as we found in our first-ever Global Employee Benefits Trends Report. To learn more about this trend and others, as well as practical tips on implementing them, you can download our free report! Alternatively, you can also check out our infographic for a cursory overview.
As a health insurance broker and employee benefits specialist, Pacific Prime is on top of the latest employee benefits trends and factors shaping the employee benefits landscape. For over two decades now, we’ve been helping companies of all sizes and industry design and implement tailored employee benefits, such as group health insurance plans.
Outside of work, Suphanida enjoys traveling to new places and immersing herself in different cultures.
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