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COVID-19 has been unkind to women in the workplace.
While people may have felt the economic effects of COVID-19, we may not always realize the damage the pandemic has done in terms of women’s career prospects.
“COVID is disproportionately impacting women and their careers right now, even as everybody is struggling,” said Jamie Tozzi, former Microsoft executive and a member of Enavate’s board of directors.
Her presentation, “Gender Equity and the Impact of COVID-19,” pointed out some sobering stats about women in the workplace. The timing of her presentation spoke volumes, as it took place a few days after International Women’s Day (March 8) and during Women’s History Month.
In the midst of social posts and other media messages celebrating the advancements of various women, it also shows that in 2021, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Before the pandemic, women had 46 percent of jobs in the U.S., yet accounted for more than half of job losses in 2020. Certain industries that suffered, such as hospitality, may have played a part. But there’s more to it than that.
What’s rather telling are some of the stats found in McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 study, conducted in partnership with LeanIn.org.
The study found that one in four women are thinking about a downshift (e.g., opting for a role with less responsibility or passing on career advancement) or a departure from the workforce (e.g., taking a leave of absence or stopping work), according to Tozzi. If the issues cited in the study are nor addressed, it can have significant repercussions along the lines of gender equity and even GDP (gross domestic product).
“The business case for diversity is very clear. Studies show that organizations with gender parity at all levels, including the senior ranks, outperform companies that don’t,” Tozzi said.
“Diverse thinking, diverse teams bring better ideas to the table, represent customers better, and think like customers in different ways, “something Tozzi witnessed during her time building teams at Microsoft. “It’s amazing to see what you can do as a team with diverse individuals,” she said.
Tozzi shared the three types of women struggling the most:
Although the numbers may paint a bleak picture, the news is not all “doom and gloom.” Tozzi mentioned that the number of women represented in the C-suite is up 22 percent in the past five years, which is a great thing (pre-COVID). There has been a lot of focus from organizations on bringing women into higher levels, even though there’s still plenty to be done to reach gender equity.
The McKinsey/LeanIn.org study also discussed the “broken rung” challenge, the decline of gender equity as people advance within an organization. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted. (The numbers are worse for Black and Latina women.)
A lot of companies started addressing the “broken rung” challenge to provide women with mentorship and allyship, implementing policies that encouraged a more diverse point of view when it came to hiring and evaluating employees.
Enavate has always advocated for gender equity. Since the company’s beginning in 2014, the number of women team members has increased from 20 percent to 40 percent today. Our CEO, Thomas Ajspur thinks we can still do better.
His goal: a team comprised of a 50-50 split between men and women. As he told Microsoft Corporate VP Gavriella Schuster in a recent article on LinkedIn: “We have an obligation as a company and to society to help people who have a harder time getting access to roles in technology.”
Enavate is also supporting the Women in Technology Network, an organization that empowers women and men to grow their technology careers.
Another area in which Enavate has always embraced is empowerment. Team members are encouraged to make a difference in the lives of our clients, our company and our community. One of the company values is that “we take care of our own,” from extending the company’s maternity leave policy to offering support to a team member during a period of racial unrest.
Tozzi is a huge fan of empowerment. During her time at Microsoft, Tozzi mentored men and women for several years. One common theme she observed was that men would proactively seek her help or feedback when an opportunity arose in the organization they wanted to pursue.
It was a different picture when it came to the women she mentored. “I’d just be waiting for that phone to ring. ‘Is she going to reach out to me, is she going to ask for my support? Is she going to go for it?’ And it was like, crickets,” Tozzi said.
“So, I would dial up the woman and then I would say, ‘Hey, I think this would be the perfect job for you. What do you think? Are you going to go for it?’”
Then, what she’d hear most of the time: “‘You know, I thought about it, but I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I’m ready. I’m not sure, I have all these gaps.” Tozzi would advise her mentee to pursue it anyway.
While men shouldn’t have to encourage women, it’s tough to change a deep-seated culture overnight. “Be aware that some of the most amazing women on your team, the women that you see as next-level leaders in the organization, they might need to be encouraged every once in a while,” Tozzi said.
“Women, we need to participate in our own rescue (on these statistics),” she said. “Raise your hand. Raise your hand more. Go for things. You don’t have to have every box checked. You’re a great candidate.”
Roselle Cronan is Content Marketing Lead at Enavate. She uses her writing and editing skills to share Enavate’s “Why”: Transform businesses and the lives they touch. Inspired and empowered, Roselle challenges herself to position Enavate as THE partner for ERP and Cloud implementations. Outside of work, Roselle supports the Alabama Crimson Tide, reads a lot, enjoys live music and takes part in Tampa’s Gasparilla parade (aka Mardi Gras with pirates). She lives in Riverview, Florida, with her cat, Cleo.