Now is Not the Time to Stand Down

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

So much disheartening recent published reports about the effects of the pandemic on working mothers, especially women of color. 

We have come so far and achieved so much, but the Covid train wreck is causing terrible whiplash for working mothers. The pandemic is the perfect storm for bias against working mothers.

Now is not the time to stand down, but to rise up and achieve success on our terms. 

That’s easy for me to say with three grown children. 

What is also easy for me to say and what countless other women should and can say is:

‘How can I help?’

Being a mother has long been a liability at work. But with work, school, and child care now happening under one roof for so many families, working mothers are at unprecedented risk of experiencing a pandemic-size motherhood penalty.

According to an article in the Atlantic this week, only 51% of companies during the pandemic have clarified productivity expectations and only 37% have changed performance review criteria. Women say that without clarity and expectation they are working harder than ever. 

We know that employees, especially working mothers need more support and flexibility. Why do we still measure success by the 9am-5pm traditional time clock when outcomes mean so much more? 

When we give working parents the support they need, they give us so much more in return. I found this time and time again during my 30 years in business. The working mothers who reported to me were dedicated, productive and often times received the end of the year awards and recognition for their efforts.

Progress towards greater gender equality has been slow over the past five years and the Covid-19 pandemic now risks sending it into reverse.

The Mckinsey Women in the Workplace 2020 analysis shows that women’s jobs are 1.8X more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs: Women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses as of May 2020. Women most effected are women of color. At the same time, the burden of unpaid care, which has risen in the pandemic, falls disproportionately on women.

The McKinsey Report says this crisis also represents an opportunity: If companies make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace, women can achieve their potential over the long term. 

An empathetic workplace is where the most important questions get asked:

  • How are you?

  • Do you have what you need to get your work done?

  • What would make things easier?

  • What hows works best for you this week?

  • When is the best time to connect?

  • Who do you need to reach out to for support?

  • How can I help?

Women must support other women right now. I mean really support. Show up for them. Reach out before our female colleagues take a pause, downshift their careers or leave the workforce completely. 

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