Many women are saying things like “I do not know how I can do this anymore. I am set myself the lowest bar of expectations, knowing that I will not be able to reach a minimal of good in any one area and am just waiting to see which area will blow-up. Honestly, the bar the women portrayed in the film ”Bad Moms“ is too high a bar to strive for
- been restructured,
- downshifted their expectations of career growth for the sake of flexibility and/or stability,
- found and lost new jobs during the pandemic,
- while homeschooling and being caregivers,
- during a time of political, social upheaval, and continued ambiguity,
These are the Wonder Women who are struggling to find the motivation to work it in the “hire-me dance”
, while continuing to juggle their myriad of responsibilities. These Wonder Women
are running on all pistons, TBH have been even prior to 2020
, and are they are sputtering out.
This is a reoccurring theme as the scales
do not look like they will be coming into balance any time soon. Indeed the imbalance is seeming to get worse, particularly for women in emerging
economies. At this point for many women, the financial calculation and workplace security is being weighed against their mental-health and well-being.
💭 How prevalent is the situation?
US-based National Women’s Law Center “tallied a net loss of 5.4 million jobs among women
since February 2020, or more than half of all jobs lost since the pandemic began.” Now it is April and I am hearing from more and more women, who are struggling to juggle their work, children’s schooling, their health, their other various responsibilities, and keep a semblance of sanity - and are questioning if it is worth it.
According to the Women in the Workplace 2020
study, “mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving during the pandemic. In fact, they’re 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an additional three or more hours per day on housework and childcare.” 80% of adults not working due to caregiver obligations are women (Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion, in Vox
“1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers versus 1 in 5 men. While all women have been impacted, three major groups have experienced some of the largest challenges: working mothers, women in senior management positions, and Black women."reports the McKinsey
, The Pandemic Gender Effect analysis.
💭 What are some of the reasons?
On the one hand, "women are highly concentrated in sectors
that are expected to suffer high rates of unemployment in 2020, including hospitality, food services, and retail. As of September 2020, only 53 percent of the US adult Black population was employed, compared with 57 percent of the corresponding white population,2 and 39 percent of jobs held by Black workers
are vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, compared with 34 percent for white workers. Vulnerable jobs are subject to furloughs, layoffs, or being rendered unproductive (for example, workers kept on payroll but not working) during periods of high physical distancing. Similarly, 65 percent of US Hispanics and Latinos work
in the five sectors that are suffering the largest drops in GDP during the pandemic, including leisure and hospitality and retail trade.” (McKinsey, Investing in Black Lives and Livelihood)
“If you are in a low-wage service-sector job, you’re not able to work from home and try to take care of your kids in between conference calls,” Emily Martin, the NWLC’s vice-president for education and workplace justice, “Those are jobs where, if you have a caregiving crisis, you may just have to leave the workforce entirely.“ in Fortune
And Emily is right, in the US, in September alone, 617,000 women
left the workforce just as school was ramping up - 8 times more than men.
Despite the fact that,
"Almost 40% of unemployed women in December have been out of work for six months or more. The impact on women of this crisis is going to be one that they feel economically for years to come,” Emily Martin adds. “We’re really in danger of widening gender and racial wage gaps—and that has huge impacts for the financial security of women, and of the families who are depending on women.” - in Fortune
This “I see no other option than to leave” situation is given further credence in the PWC report
, which states “Overall, women ranked lack of flexibility and work/life balance as a top-three reason for wanting to leave their current employer, just behind pay and a lack of opportunities for career progression.”
This is then a big challenge then for women wanting to return - or them asking for flexibly options at work as detailed in the HBR 2020 article on What is Really Holding Women Back
, a there is such a strong bias and narrative around the paradigm that “high-level jobs require extremely long hours, women’s devotion to family makes it impossible for them to put in those hours, and their careers suffer as a result.” In fact, “in a 2012 survey of more than 6,500 Harvard Business School alumni from many different industries, 73% of men and 85% of women invoked it to explain women’s stalled advancement. Believing this explanation doesn’t mean it’s true, however, and our research calls it seriously into question.”
“Women weren’t held back because of trouble balancing the competing demands of work and family—men, too, suffered from the balance problem and nevertheless advanced. Women were held back because, unlike men, they were encouraged to take accommodations, such as going part-time and shifting to internally facing roles, which derailed their careers. The real culprit was a general culture of overwork that hurt both men and women and locked gender inequality in place. they highlight that "a 24/7 culture creates discontent for women and men alike and that the “accommodations” solution, ironically, tends to derail the careers of highly qualified women, leaving companies’ senior ranks depleted of some of their brightest female stars” (Ely and Padavic, 2020)
On the other hand, in their work, Ely and Padavic challenged the work/family narrative as oversimplified and offered a “broader, more-nuanced, and data-driven explanation: What really held women back was the crushing culture of overwork at the firm. The unnecessarily long hours were detrimental to everyone, we explained, but they disproportionately penalized women because, unlike men, many of them take accommodations, which extract a steep career price.”
Which leads us back to the statement
at the beginning of this TTI post, which was essentially the story that folks have been hearing at their annual all-hands and objective setting - “crazy year that 2020, you delivered incredibly, now let’s add some more on top without real concessions to how, when, or priorities on what work is to be done
.” This pressure about what was, and is, necessary to deliver on these high expectations is at the heart of the matter - overpromising unrealistic goals, not addressing the causes of in-efficient work, that leads to feeling burnt out and not having the agency to defend oneself against the deluge and onslaught.
💭 This is, in my opinion, a huge elephant in the room that is causing many people to question “is this job even worth the mental- and emotional health strain - can I reasonably maintain this level of output any longer”?
In the Reimagine Work Employee Survey
, 49% of Employees reported feeling some symptoms of being burned out at work. This number is considered to be an underestimate, as employees experiencing burnout are in general not as likely to respond to survey requests, and “the most burned-out individuals may have already left the workforce by the time the study had been run (December 2020 - January 2021)—as have many women, who’ve been disproportionately affected
by the COVID-19 crisis.
According to a McKinsey 20/20 report
, the factors that can predict whether employees are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce are as follows:
- Lack of flexibility at work
- Feeling like they need to be available to work at all hours, or “always on”
- Housework and caregiving burdens resulting from COVID-19
- Worry that their performance is being negatively judged because of caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic
- Difficulty sharing with their teammates or managers the challenges they are facing
- Feeling blindsided by decisions that affect their day-to-day work
- Feeling unable to bring their whole selves to work
As businesses and organizations, we need to deeply care and address these symptomatic and systemic issues, particularly for people of color, women, and other minority groups, who are losing out on hard wrought ground and whose place in organizations for delivering on increased creativity in teams, organizational performance and innovation is proven many times over.
Each individual case is part of a broader story that we as HR, we need to help dig deeper to proactively address and help get energy, power, and a real system of support in place.
🎈And we as an Empowering League
are gathering ideas, inspirations, and practical research! So if YOU are interested or have resources /inspirations/ venting to share, let me know - there’s always room at our table.
Change their minds,
and change the world.
Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.