Impact of COVID-19 on Working Women/Their Careers
Hi all! I'm working on an article that highlights the disproportionate effect the pandemic is having on working women, their careers, and what HR's role is in supporting their female employees. Unemployment is up 2.9 percentage points for women when compared to men. I am interested in including quotes and thoughts from HR leaders and wanted to open up the opportunity here. Below are the kinds of things I'm curious about. Please comment below or send me a message if interested in providing commentary on this important topic. Thank you!
What is HR’s role in supporting female employees during COVID-19? Specifically, those who also go by “Mom”? What tactics or strategies have you found to be effective in supporting female employees/moms through COVID-19 as an HR leader?
How can HR build a more inclusive culture to ensure women aren’t left in the dust following a hiatus or bump in their career due to COVID-19? What initiatives do you think HR can institute to get women back on track as they begin to reenter the workforce?
I'm Owner/Operator of my own HR consulting firm, but this is only my "side-gig". My full-time job and biggest priority is that of a stay-at-home mom teaching two boys under six. This is not a matter of convivence or coincidence, this was planned and thoughtfully executed. Despite that (even before COVID), I had more difficulty than expected navigating the balance between my primary and secondary priorities. In many ways, my job as a stay-at-home mom prepared me for the isolation challenges brought on by COVID. When COVID hit, the rest of the world suddenly understood that working from home while balancing other life responsibilities is not the culmination of the dream many of us expected. Suddenly, it was OK to have a screaming toddler on the other end of a conference call!
My COVID story is not unique, in my small circle of close colleagues, I know three other moms who experienced similar challenges. We have found comfort in solidarity. It is important to note that this is not a challenge just for females, it is a challenge faced by many "primary caregivers". I had a wonderful conversation a few weeks ago with another HR professional and dad who is experiencing some of the same challenges. We didn't connect over the usual HR horror stories about worst interviews/terminations. Rather, we connected about life experiences. My recent revelation is that COVID has forced many of us to reveal our more authentic selves. I'm seeing the wall between personal and professional lives broken down, and I must admit, I'm relishing in the opportunity to more authentically connect with my peers!
Before I wrap up this lengthy response, I'd like to reference the "hiatus or bump in career" terminology in your initial post. I used to use this language before having kids, and I regret ever having used it. Having children (or more specifically, being responsible for their survival) has given me a perspective into human behavior that I could not have otherwise developed in a lifetime of work in HR. I am a better HR professional because of my kids. Although I never would have wished COVID on anyone, I'm a better person having weathered this much of this pandemic. If HR needs to do anything, I think it is to recognize the unique experiences people bring to the table based on their collective experiences. "Good employees" don't just come from advanced degrees and years of employment. Rather, they come from learning and growth. Let's stop thinking about motherhood (or caregiving) as a hiatus, and start to think of it as a uniquely valuable experience.
Thanks for reading!