Women’s History Month: A Time To Assess Lessons Learned To Support Women in the Workplace, Now and Beyond
This Women’s History Month marks the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, women were gaining momentum making historic strides in education, the workforce, and public office. Today, it’s impossible to ignore the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on working women as compared to their male colleagues.
Since February 2020, the economy has experienced a net loss of over 2.1 million jobs. Notably, women account for 1.4 million of those jobs — at a rate 1.8 times higher than men’s job losses. And women of color left the workforce at an even faster rate than white women. We must be doing more to support women in the workforce, particularly multicultural women, to reverse these trends and combat loss in progress towards gender parity and racial equity.
On International Women’s Day, Connecticut Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz celebrated Paradigm for Parity leadership and new coalition companies based in Connecticut.
The World Economic Forum estimates that the pandemic has delayed gender parity by 36 years — almost an entire generation of women. The Bureau of Labor’s January and February 2022 reports demonstrated a strong national economic recovery but also showed that women are returning to the workforce at a lower rate than men. Notably, there is also a sharp racial disparity among the women returning to the workforce.
According to a study by the National Women’s Law Center, more than 1 million men entered the labor force in January 2022, compared to just 39,000 women. There are many reasons for this gender gap, including: increased burnout, lack of access to affordable child care, gender bias in hiring practices, inflexible work schedules, and persisting pay gaps. This doesn’t have to be the case. As Kate Duchene, CEO of Paradigm for Parity member company RGP, said in the CEO Spotlight Series, “we must continue to find ways to help women thrive in today’s Now of Work that’s defined by work/life blending, borderless talent and an increased agility afforded by remote access. Radical flexibility is needed now more than ever because in a COVID-recovering world, one size does not fit all.”
Now, more than ever, businesses have the responsibility to make the workplace more welcoming to women of all races, cultures and backgrounds and to provide opportunities to remove roadblocks and advance their careers. Paradigm for Parity encourages companies to accelerate the pace to gender parity by implementing inclusive policies that create an equitable environment where for women can thrive.
This Women’s History Month and beyond, companies can do their part to disrupt the trends we are seeing by:
- Providing benefits that allow women to succeed. Flexible work options, a fair family-sustaining wage, and health benefits are imperative steps to attract female employees and increase retention.
- Interrupting unconscious biases and embracing DEI efforts at a leadership level. It is essential for leaders to demonstrate their values and lift the burden of bias off the shoulders of their employees. Paradigm for Parity is offering off-the-shelf Diversity and Inclusion Toolkits to coalition companies at the end of March. Learn more about coalition membership here to receive the toolkit.
- Advocating as leaders for women of all backgrounds. Leaders have the responsibility to provide mentorship and sponsorship to women who have been historically overlooked in the workplace. In February, Paradigm for Parity launched a Profit & Loss Leadership Accelerator Pilot Program sponsored by CVS and Merck for Multicultural women to develop necessary skills for advancing into the critical operating roles that lead to the C-Suite.
Eliminating bias, providing mentorship, and offering robust benefits will not wholly solve gender disparity in the workforce, but they are critical to sustainable change. We need companies and leaders to step up to right the systematic wrongs that have been further magnified the past two years. Working together and implementing concrete steps, like our Paradigm for Parity 5-Point Action Plan, are essential to delivering on stated commitments to advance women’s careers and shift corporate culture.
About Paradigm for Parity®
Paradigm for Parity® is a coalition of business leaders dedicated to addressing the corporate leadership gender gap. The coalition is made up of CEOs, senior executives, founders, board members, and business academics who are committed to achieving a new norm in the corporate world: one in which women and men have equal power, status, and opportunity. The ultimate goal is to achieve full gender parity by 2030, with a near-term goal of women holding at least 30% of senior roles.