Originally posted by Forbes.
Caroline Castrillon is a Contributor at Forbes who writes about career, entrepreneurship, and women's advancement. She's a career and life coach who helps people go from soul-sucking job to career fulfillment.
In a recent opinion piece, Vice President Kamala Harris described the exodus of women from the workforce as a “national emergency." This declaration isn't surprising when approximately 2.5 million women have lost their jobs or left the workforce during the pandemic—enough to fill 40 football stadiums! Also, 1 in 4 women surveyed as part of McKinsey’s 2020 Women in the Workplace study indicated that they are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether.
What is causing this mass departure? The Covid-19 crisis has greatly intensified challenges that women were already experiencing. Working mothers who were dealing with grueling schedules are now facing a lack of childcare and, in many cases, homeschooling. There is constant anxiety over layoffs and furloughs. As a result, employees feel like they need to be "always-on"—working around the clock and putting them at increased risk of burnout. And for exhausted working mothers (particularly single moms) who are juggling competing priorities, the mental health risks are significant.
So, what does the future of work look like for women, given the current pressures? Here are my top predictions:
The future of work is balanced
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that family comes first. As the situation continues, many mothers prepare for further work interruptions with children continuing to homeschool. Working moms are particularly overloaded now as they juggle career, remote learning, childcare and household duties. Work-life balance has always been a struggle. Now with the pandemic, many women are hitting a wall. Priorities have changed with family and work-life balance topping the list.
The future of work is remote
According to Executive Brand Strategist Janel Dyan, "With 90% of companies thinking about more work being done remotely, women (especially mothers and caregivers) have a great opportunity to take advantage of this option.” This concept will evolve into a hybrid model with employees working remotely and from an office during the workweek. One example is JPMorgan who already has a plan for its employees to work from home one or two weeks a month or two days a week, depending on the line of business. A top priority will also be for companies to “create programs and initiatives to attract and retain women,” says Dyan, “programs such as tutoring, grocery shopping and dry-cleaning services as well as paid family leave and childcare support.”
The future of work is flexible
Balancing the demands of work and home life can be overwhelming for any parent. But women suffer the most. According to Pew Research Center, women are more likely than men to adjust their careers for family. While women represent nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce, they still devote more time than men on average to housework and child care. During Covid-19, women have taken on an even heavier load. Mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving. And they’re 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on housework and childcare—equivalent to 20 hours a week, or half a full-time job, according to the McKinsey study. Employers must offer flexible work options or risk losing talented female employees. Recent research conducted by Mercer supports this prediction showing that 56% of workers would try to switch jobs if their employers do not retain flexible work after the pandemic.
The future of work is authentic
When employees feel like they can bring their whole selves to work, good things happen. Research shows that feeling authentic at work leads to higher engagement, job satisfaction, and performance. Yet, for women, it’s challenging to bring their whole selves to work. Especially when they face sexist conduct or garner attention for things like their appearance. Authenticity—the healthy alignment between values and behaviors— is a powerful factor in women's lives. In one study, authenticity emerged as one of the five key themes influencing women’s careers and life choices. As time goes on, more and more women will be consciously designing their lives in accordance with their top priorities—and that includes being true to themselves.
The future of work is entrepreneurial
I often work with female executives who are frustrated because they don’t feel that they have control over their careers. That is one reason more women are turning to entrepreneurship. Over the past two decades, the number of women-owned businesses has grown 114%, compared to the national growth rate of 44% for all businesses. According to Visa’s second annual State of Female Entrepreneurship report, 79% of women entrepreneurs in the United States feel more empowered now than they did five years ago. And the trend is expected to continue as more women crave the freedom, creativity, flexibility and fulfillment that come with building and running their own businesses.
For the first time in history, the U.S. is in a “shecession”—an economic downturn where job and income losses are disproportionally affecting women. It’s time for companies to prioritize efforts to support women through these difficult times and keep them moving up the managerial ranks. Dr. Margie Warrell, author of You’ve Got This, shares this perspective, “communities, organizations, and leadership tables benefit when diversity is sought, nurtured, and valued fully. Nurturing the potential of women by helping them be gainfully employed and optimistic about their future is not just good for women, it's good for everyone.”
Original post can be found here.