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Women and jobs after the pandemic

Job market balance is not a task only for women

It’s not enough to just recapture women’s role in the job market after the “shecession” created during the pandemic when women have suffered more than men. Why not use the efficacy of remote work and the priorities of high-talented women seeking employment to reset your company’s gender diversity and inclusion at all leadership levels?

The proposals come from two professors writing an article in the Harvard Business Review. Their advices comprise three main areas:

  • Generous flexible work policies
  • Performance expectations and evaluation criteria for remote workers
  • Favour managers with a track record of onboarding and promoting diverse talent.

W Brad Johnson is a professor of psychology in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the United States Naval Academy and a faculty associate in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. He is the coauthor of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace, Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women, The Elements of Mentoring, and other books on mentorship.

David G. Smooth is an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. He is the coauthor, with W. Brad Johnson, of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace and Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women.

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The authors say that consultancies McKinsey and Oxford Economics saying women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 have failed to consider how surges in Covid variants may further forestall access to childcare and in-person school. Women have far more then men been forced to choose between caregiving obligation and career.

Read Also:  Diversity makes companies stronger during the pandemic (McKinsey report)

Win the war for talent

”The sluggish recovery in women’s employment was confirmed by  evidence that 97% of women who returned to the labour force in June had not found jobs by July (versus only 12% for men); unemployment remains highest for Black and Latina women.”

The authors say that organizations that establish themselves as top destinations for female employees by taking stands on gender and racial equality, leading on flexible and remote work arrangements, transparently pursuing equal pay, and demonstrating creative solutions to quality childcare will win the war for talent.

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”Companies that cling to 20th-century workplace norms will disappear. Never has there been an easier time to capitalize on a competitor’s tone deafness and poor agility.”

Their recommendations in short:

Challenge gender-normative assumptions around flexible work.

Offering generous flexible work policies that enable more women to stay in the workforce is an essential step in reducing gender inequities — but these must be accompanied by changes to existing work cultures and gender norms. Extending more flexible work arrangements to all workers — not just women — can disrupt associated stigma by avoiding assumptions about who will want to use flexible work arrangements.

Guard against work-from-home stigma and a two-class culture.

Remote and hybrid work is only a win if it doesn’t perpetuate a work-from-home-stigma, fostering negative perceptions toward workers who don’t work in the office every day. Leaders and managers must understand that work is something we accomplish, not a place we go. Companies must routinely analyze pay and promotion rates for in-office and remote workers to ensure transparency and prevent disparities from creeping in.

Hire and promote leaders with 21st-century skills.

Actively recruiting women and promoting flexible work arrangements won’t be enough if frontline managers — who are predominantly men – remain actively or passively resistant. Companies must hire people, especially women, who can articulate the business case and the moral imperative for full gender balance and equity in the company, and promote those who exude authenticity, inclusiveness, humility and empathy. Favour managers with a track record of onboarding and promoting diverse talent.

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