From the start of the global pandemic, it was apparent that the economic fallout affected women more than men. It was initially dubbed the ‘she-cession’ because so many aspects of the economic crisis fell disproportionately on women. Women had higher job losses, lower wages, and increased responsibilities juggling careers with children’s education.
“We had women that were trying very hard to balance working, if they still had a job, along with making sure that their kids could be taught,” said Denise Malecki, US and Global PwC SAP Life Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Leader at PwC. “There are, of course, dads that did this as well, but we saw primarily mothers were forced to be teachers as well as trying to balance conference calls and everything else.”
During the so-called ‘she-cession’, all of the responsibilities from three normally separate areas of our lives – workplace, home, and school – converged within our own four walls, and it wasa strugglefor many.
“As I step back and think about this past year, many of us felt like the world had stopped, and some wondered would it ever get back to any normalcy,” said Malecki. “Would we ever restart? So, as I start to think about the recovery, there are silver linings that come with it.”
The global pandemic touched all of our lives in different ways. For some, it’s an ongoing inconvenience. For others, it was a life-changing shift that has set their lives on a new course.
“You have a lot of women leaving the corporate workforce, opting for a more flexible environment by creating their own companies,” said Alison Wyatt, Co-Founder and CEO ofFemale Founder Collective, a non-profit group aimed at empowering women in business. Wyatt said, “A large portion of small businesses are actually run by women.”
While many women are embarking on new entrepreneurial ventures, others are considering re-entering the corporate world. As we move forward with the ‘she-covery’, businesses need to step up to support current and future employees and their families tocreate a better employee experience.
“We had already started this process of focusing on employees’ well-being, but COVID forced us to make it a business imperative,” said Maryann Abbajay, Chief Revenue Officer of SuccessFactors solutions at SAP during theshe-covery radio show. “Companies have really stepped up in this pandemic to help employees. They’ve put the employee first.”
Wyatt added, “If you empower employees and give them flexibility, they will be accountable. They’ll still provide the same results. Now, the challenge is really going to be, as we revert back to a more office-centered culture again, how do you maintain some sense of flexibility and what can you learn from that?”
The importance of developing new skills
The pandemic has been a period of extreme change for all of us, and out of change comes growth. Businesses and individuals alike have learned a lot from what we have collectively dealt with during the COVID-19 crisis, and it has changed how we work and interact.
“Many struggled with this new way of working, and this new way of working isn't going away,” said Malecki. “We're only going to see technology continue to cycle even faster than it has been, which is amazing and hard to believe. We need the entire population to step up in terms of their digital IQ.”
Wyatt agreed that technology is essential to maintaining flexible, remote work. “It has certainly changed the way that we need to interact, our need to be remote, and actually survive and thrive in a remote environment,” she said.
“The silver lining continues, not just for employees but for organizations in general,” added Abbajay. “During the last year, 93% of companies figured out that most work can be done remotely. And 80% of employees said, ‘I don't want to go back to the office’. It’s actually a competitive advantage to allow remote working. Many companies are making changes, even ones who historically had office cultures.”
Taking a new approach
As the world moves beyond the pandemic, and the economy starts to recover, SAP recommends that businesses take a new approach to attract, retrain, and retain employees.
Find them.Seek employees with diverse skillsets to enhance your business.
Train them.Invest in the future by training, upskilling, and reskilling new and existing employees to maintain a highly competent and engaged workforce.
Challenge them.Keep employees engaged and interested in their work by challenging them, encouraging them, and entrusting them to pursue new ideas.
Recharge them.Show empathy and recognize when your employees need help or encouragement.
Applaud them.Recognize and reward the efforts of employees. It does make a difference.
It’s all about choices
The pandemic was an unexpected upheaval for all of us. Although it may have disproportionately impacted women, it’s up to each of us to decide how to move forward in our own personal ‘she-covery’.