Seven Things Employers Can Do To Address The Pandemic’s Impact On Workplace Gender Equality

June 09, 2021

As was noted in Wellable’s previous post on the pandemic’s regressive impact on gender equality in the workplace, pandemic-induced restrictions in combination with extant gender inequities have caused many women to consider leaving their jobs. This is bad in its own right but also because businesses thrive on diversity. To rectify this problem, below are seven actions employers can take to address it.

 

1.     Learn about why women want to leave:

All workforces are different when it comes to the challenges they are facing and their preferences for how to deal with them. Because of this, employers should find out about the particular obstacles that the women in their workplace are dealing with. However, not all ways of attempting to do this will be effective as your employees may fear the results of being honest about all of the things that make them want to not continue working. To get around this obstacle, try:

  • Sending out anonymous surveys

  • Facilitating honest and open lines of communication between team leaders and their employees

  • Reaching out to experts in the field of gender equality who can, without the fear of damaging their career goals, draw your company’s attention to the kinds of struggles that women in your workplace may be dealing with.

 

2.     Offer flexibility:

The additional obligations that women often take on (e.g., childcare and household responsibilities) can make it more difficult for them to predict when they will have the time or energy to get their work done. Being in such a position when one is required to work at certain times, in certain places, for a certain number of hours can be intensely stressful. As a result, businesses that value maintaining a gender diverse workforce should consider providing their employees with greater flexibility when it comes to when they work, where they work, and how much they work. For more detailed information on the value of workplace flexibility and how to craft your own flexibility policies, check out The Future Of Workplace Location Flexibility Policies and Re-envisioning The Office For A Post Pandemic World.

 

3.     Workplace culture changes:

Though working from home has posed its own unique set of challenges for women, the office contains its own serious set of obstacles. ABC news reports that the results of their survey on women’s experiences of unwanted sexual advances “translates to about 33 million U.S. women being sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused, in work-related incidents.” While this problem requires more than the work of employers to solve, companies can and must do something about it. As a start, they should establish a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination on the basis of gender or sexuality and make mandatory, on-site training sessions to educate employees about these types of discrimination, their effects, and how to prevent them.

 

4.     Facilitate support groups:

Create a time for the women in your workplace to get together and talk about the struggles they have dealt with (and continue to deal with). This can help them feel less isolated, learn from others who are dealing with the similar problems, and gain confidence that any requests that they have will be heard and taken seriously, as they will be in a position to bring them to their employers as a group, rather than as individuals.

 

5.     Expand your benefits offerings:

The benefits systems that companies often rely on are rarely designed to accommodate the specific challenges that women face in the workforce. To fix this, businesses should consider expanding their benefits by:

  • Providing on-site day care or subsidizing/covering childcare
  • Providing access to behavioral health counselors
  • Offering leaves for painful or strenuous life experiences that affect women more than men but that they are not typically allowed to take time off for (e.g. leaves for miscarriages, subsidized egg freezing benefits, and/or fertility treatment, and menstruation)

 

6.    Focus on the ethical case for gender equality:

As is the case when trying to cultivate diversity and inclusion in the workplace (which Wellable provided a series of suggestions for here), showing the women in your workforce why they should stay requires focusing on the moral reasons for creating a more gender equitable work environment. In other words, businesses must find the goal of creating a workplace that is better for women to be a worthy pursuit in its own right aside from any purely economic benefits that can be gained from achieving it. If your company fails to do this, the rest of their efforts may have little impact as it will be clear that they are, to some degree, insincere.

 

7.    Let the women in your workforce know that your company cares and will do better:

Your company can make all of the right changes, but if the women in your workforce don’t know those changes are coming, they aren’t going to stick around if they weren’t already planning to. As a result, it is essential that your company lets them know as soon as possible, that it knows that they have been dealing with a unique set of challenges, that their employers care, and that something is going to be done about it. If your company already has a plan in place (which the suggestions above should help out with) provide them with that plan and be open to suggestions.


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