Advancing gender equity as you emerge from the pandemic

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By January 2021, nearly 3 million women had left the labor market. The “Shecession” naturally led many to focus on recovering the levels of engagement of women before the pandemic in the workforce. But why settle for just to resume what did you already have when your organization can do more? Why not use the efficiency of remote working and the priorities of talented women seeking employment to reset your company’s gender diversity and inclusion at all levels of management? The authors suggest three ways to do this. First, challenge normative gender assumptions about flexible working by communicating that flexible working arrangements are all employees (not just women) and encourage men and male leaders to participate. Second, protect yourself from the stigma of working from home and a two-class culture by regularly analyzing the pay and promotion rates of stationed and remote workers to ensure transparency and prevent gender disparities. infiltrate. skills, including authenticity, inclusiveness, humility and empathy.

While the ‘Shecession’ naturally led many to focus on reclaiming women’s pre-pandemic engagement levels in the workforce, we believe this approach amounts to a lack of imagination and a profound missed opportunity.

Why settle for to resume what did you already have when your organization can do more? Why not take advantage of this moment to fully pivot towards flexibility, transparency and innovation in the operation of your business? And why not use the efficiency of remote working and the priorities of talented women seeking employment to reset your company’s gender diversity and inclusion at all levels of management?

By January 2021, nearly 3 million women had left the labor market compared to the previous year, representing a 33-year low in women’s participation in the labor market. In February, McKinsey and Oxford Economics estimated that female employment may not return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024. But that estimate did not take into account how increases in Covid variants -19 could further prevent access to child care and in-person schooling. (And women – far more than men – were forced to choose between care obligations and career opportunities.) July (compared to just 12% for men); unemployment remains highest for black and Latin women.

What does all of this evidence indicate? The workplace is about to witness an epic war for talent. Women make up at least half of those at the top of the curve when it comes to IQ, emotional intelligence, creativity, and leadership. While there are nuances in the gender distribution in these key areas of business performance, women make up at least 50% of the most talented portion of the workforce. Companies with more women, especially more women in management positions, perform better. The power and performance of female leadership was particularly visible around the world during the pandemic. Overall, countries led by women have outperformed those led by men.

Organizations that establish themselves as destinations of choice for female employees by taking a stand on gender and racial equality, conducting flexible and remote working arrangements, transparently seeking equal pay and demonstrating creative solutions for quality child care will win the war, while companies that cling to 20th-century workplace standards will disappear. There has never been an easier time to capitalize on a competitor’s deafness and poor agility.

To do this, organizations must act quickly and proactively. Here are our top recommendations for creating an economic transformation that enables women to participate equally and equitably in the labor market.

Challenging gender normative assumptions about flexible work.

A significant proportion of women seek out companies that offer (and honor) flexible, remote and hybrid work schedules. Providing generous flexible labor policies that allow more women to stay in the labor market is a key step in reducing gender inequalities, but these must be accompanied by changes in work cultures and standards. existing gender. Extending more flexible working arrangements to all workers – not just women – can disrupt the associated stigma by avoiding assumptions about who will want to use flexible working arrangements. Attitudes towards gender roles have become more equal with the influx of Millennials into the workforce, and companies need policies to adapt in order to help employees thrive. Make sure that written policies and communications from frontline managers reinforce the message that flexible work options are available to everyone, and avoid assuming that these are “women’s” programs.

In addition, men, including male leaders, need to participate in flexible and remote work programs. Although many men face a stigma of femininity when using flexible and remote working options, we encourage men as allies for gender equality to help de-stigmatize flexible working and women. family leave by requesting and using these options, both as a way to support their own partners and families and as a way to de-stigmatize flexible working for women and young men.

Protect yourself against the stigma of working from home and a two-class culture.

Unless we are vigilant, remote working options can inadvertently widen the gender pay and promotion gap. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom has warned that while remote working options are mainly used by women while men mostly stay in the office, racking up time in the face, and if managers do not change traditional conceptions of the worker ideal in the office five days a week, we are prepared to further delay women in pay equity.

Remote and hybrid working is only a victory if it does not perpetuate the stigma of working from home, fostering negative perceptions towards workers who do not work in the office every day. Leaders and managers need to understand that work is something we do, not a place we go. Companies should regularly analyze the pay and promotion rates of in-office and remote workers to ensure transparency and prevent disparities from creeping in. Set performance expectations and benchmarks for remote workers to reflect how work is done differently in the remote environment. Managers should also consider new communication routines that ensure fair visibility in all working arrangements.

In addition, companies should highlight flexible and remote working arrangements in job postings and recruitment materials. Women (and men) are more likely to apply for jobs (and stay longer) with remote and flexible working arrangements. Companies can standardize and equalize these working arrangements with office work by providing fair pay, benefits and promotion opportunities. Highlighting signing bonuses, training for new skills and qualifications, and promotion opportunities in job postings and corporate promotional materials are just some of the many ways companies are promoting the new world. work. Remote and flexible working arrangements effectively open up a treasure trove of untapped diverse talent in previously unavailable job markets based on location.

Hire and promote leaders with 21st century skills.

Actively recruiting women and promoting flexible working arrangements will not be enough if frontline managers – who are predominantly men – remain actively or passively resilient. Companies need to hire people, especially women, who can articulate the business case and moral imperative for gender balance and equity in the business, and promote those who exude authenticity, inclusiveness, humility and empathy. Favor managers who have proven their worth in integrating and promoting diverse talents. Can they listen attentively and build trusting relationships through remote technology? There is evidence that remote workers are less alone, more integrated into teams, and more successful when their managers are deliberate communicators, often expressing encouragement, support and appreciation.

Make no mistake, implementing these changes will be difficult. But smart leaders will see this as a challenge, not a burden; a competitive opportunity, not an accommodation for women. These changes constitute a radical organizational change, something guaranteed to provoke resistance and something worthwhile.

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