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Diversity and Inclusion | 18 minute read

Gender equality in the workplace nosedives after job losses hit women

January 29, 2021

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn. To view, click here. 

Although women outnumbered men in the US workforce last year, they now account for 100% of jobs lost in December, according to research from NWLC. When you total the job loss for last year, American women have lost more than five million jobs. With the continued surge of COVID-19, leisure and hospitality, as well as government sectors, were hit hard with another unfortunate wave of job losses. And research shows Latina and Black women experienced higher unemployment when compared to women’s overall unemployment rate: 9.1% are Latinas and 8.4% are Black women compared to 5.7% being white women.  This demonstrates a harrowing revelation – that despite the collective cries for action around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), there’s still a long way to go to reach true equality. 

Stats around women in the workforce 

Although progress has been made, there’s a risk to impact all the new paths that have been paved 

“From the beginning of 2015 to the beginning of 2020, the share of women in senior vice president roles grew from 23% to 28%, with the overall share of women in the C-suite growing from 17% to 21% over that same time period. Though this growth is promising, [Lean In founder Sheryl] Sandberg emphasizes that the impact of the pandemic is proving to be a real threat to this progress. For the first time in the six years the report has been done, Lean In and McKinsey and Company researchers are seeing evidence of women leaving the workforce at higher rates than men. In the previous six years of this study, data has shown women and men leaving their companies at similar rates.” (Source: CNBC) 


Some additional stats to reinforce this threat against women in the workforce to making progress are as follows: 

  • 54% of women are said to be “very ambitious” when it comes to their careers, yet only 6% of S&P 500 companies have women CEOs (Catalyst) 
  • More than 70% of families spend more than 10% of their incomes on childcare (Care.com) 
  • More than 50% of senior-level women say they consistently take a public stand for gender and racial equity at work vs. about 40% of senior-level men (McKinsey) 
  • Women in corporate America are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders (leanin.org) 
  • 60% of managers who are men in the US and 40% of managers who are men in the UK are uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone or socializing together (leanin.org) 

How do you promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace for women? 

Unfortunately, to this day, American women working full-time make only $0.82 for every dollar paid to men – with a far wider gap when it comes to women of color. The CNBC reporting also indicates this figure doesn’t even include women who had to leave the workforce to take care of children from school closures and other conflicts. This lack of gender parity is creating a variety of issues, and a similar lack of workplace support for women is only widening this gap. 

Ongoing waves of hardship from the pandemic are sure to continue going into 2021; the question is how do we take steps today to bridge gaps tomorrow? 

Diversity matters to top talent 

Businesses with a higher-than-average diversity had 19% higher innovation revenues according to a Harvard Business Review study. Expectations around the workforce have changed over time, and the demand for inclusive spaces where employees feel welcome is becoming mission critical 

Read more with our diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) whitepaper 

Gender-neutral job listings 

As forward-facing employers, it’s essential to use gender-inclusive language on your job listings, so as not to assuage women or other minorities from applying. An HR tech assessment can pinpoint language that may be (unaware even to you) dissuading women from feeling empowered to apply. This can be a huge differentiator to attract the best people for the role.  

Get a pulse with employee surveys 

How often do you conduct surveys to understand how employees feel about your organization? Anonymized surveys help give you insights into what people think you should be prioritizing, especially when it comes to diversity. You’ll get more accurate results, while also gaining valuable takeaways on what’s most important to your people so you can act swiftly and respect their opinions while doing so. 

Take a stance on gender equality 

What you say – and what you do based on what you say – is being closely monitored by your community. Right now is a perfect opportunity to show a different, less polished side to your business; one that advocates authenticity and a human-first approach. If you declare you’re antiracist as a company and instate a diversity pledge to hire more diverse candidates, be sure that’s followed through. Falling through on such a commitment could be devastating to your brand. Silence is seen as complicit in the eyes of talent. Be mindful of that as you develop your strategy and plan. 

Create employee resource groups (ERGs) 

Encourage employees with an inclusive environment so they feel a sense of belonging. You can do just that with employee resource groups (ERGs). These groups create a safe space and will greenlight their ability to feel welcome and express themselves freely. From gender, lifestyle, religion or race, this camaraderie through ERGs opens the door for further innovation and creativity to improve as an organization. Be sure your employees lead these groups and consider an executive to sponsor so there’s buy-in and community based around them.  

Women of color are struggling 

The numbers don’t lie: As of February 2020, women held more than half of the nation’s jobs, and the pandemic has created setbacks we’ll unfortunately feel for years to come. This is especially pertinent for women of color, who constitute a large percentage of breadwinners in their households. Data revealed in 2018 that 67.5% of Black mothers and 41.4% of Latina mothers were primary or sole breadwinners for their families, compared to 37% of white mothers.  

This disproportionate distribution of duty on women of color has created lasting hardship, which has only mounted due to COVID-19. For America, this has revealed the underbelly of what’s been there all along – the injustices of social and racial inequity around the workforce and the economy at large.  

Ask yourself what you have done as a company to help support these women? How can you create more dialogue around where you can help women of color succeed? How can you source and hire more of these women to bring in new perspectives and talent to your organization? These are vital questions to ask as we progress further into the pandemic and continue to see women suffer through multiple responsibilities of childcare and day-to-day work. 

Bridging the gender gap for women at work – including wages 

Everyone must be involved for true change to happen with working womenWe’re coming to a turning point. Due to the pandemic, traditional caretaker roles are affecting women’s careers and causing many to leave the workforce entirely. To help women prevail (and all of us collectively), we must come together and empower everyone to excel. How? Consider offering incentives for childcare services so parents don’t have to choose between family and work. For those working remotely, offer virtual coffee talks for people to stay connected and foster an environment of belonging and collaboration. Perhaps most importantly: Listen, and act according to what you hear.  

We’re stronger and have the potential to build a more powerful economy when women are involved and acknowledged for their talents. Research shows companies with more than 30women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30.  

If you’re ready to take your DEIB initiatives to the next level, read our whitepaper below. One of our talent specialists can help you drive your strategy and attract top talent to your organization today. 

Sources and other resources:

Ambition is not the problem: Women want the top jobs—they just don’t get them (CNBC)
Child care costs more in 2020, and the pandemic has parents scrambling for solutions (Care.com)
Women in the workplace 2020 study (McKinsey)
Lean In
On the frontlines at work and at home: The disproportionate economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic on women of color (American Progress)
Diversity wins: How inclusion matters (McKinsey)
Equal Pay Today
Robin Hauser: The Likability Dilemma for Women Leaders TED talk 
1 in 4 women are thinking about altering their careers due to Covid-19


About Libby Herrmann

As vice president of client solutions, Libby Herrmann partners with our clients to drive optimal human capital solutions and offer insight into best practices for building effective and engaged teams. Libby has built her career with the intent to learn from and partner at all levels of the organization, both with clients internally and externally, to best employ that knowledge to drive results for her own clients, teammates and colleagues.