It’s easy to look at this pandemic and see the havoc it has caused, especially for women in the workplace. Overall the pandemic has caused a net loss of 5.4 million jobs for women compared with 4.4 million jobs lost by men. In addition, the closures of schools and daycares have disproportionately affected single mothers and minority women.
However, there is reason to be optimistic. While women have always faced obstacles when it comes to juggling family and career, the pandemic has paved the way for positive changes in workplace policies and norms when it comes to work/life balance.
The biggest and most obvious change is that Covid-19 has forced many women to work from home. As a result, they are no longer tied to the out-dated 40-hour work week at the office and have a more flexible schedule.
“The ability to work remotely from home has created an opportunity for women to spend more time with their families without wasting time on long commutes. When women work from home, they can often accomplish more in less time, meaning that they will have more time to spend with family at the end of the day. Working remotely has also given women more opportunity for self care,” said Amber Artis, CEO of Select Date Society
All of these worker benefits are good for their employers as well. In fact, based on PostcardMania’s poll of 254 small business owners in the SW/Rocky region of Colorado, 31% of small businesses plan to keep their covid-implemented policies and 45% plan to have their employees continue to work from home permanently.
Not only that, working remotely has helped more women break the glass ceiling.
“Without the traditional office, there is more space for women to grow and become part of management. Namely, this is because a worker’s identity is far less important than it was in the office. The remote workplace creates ambiguity among gender, ethnicity and class - characteristics much more obvious in the traditional setting,” said Laura Fuentes, Operator of Infinity Dish.
Since March of this year, 500,000 women have reentered the workforce and companies are taking the opportunity to attract them by providing more accommodations to working mothers. For example, Sascha Mayer, CEO and Co-founder of Mamava, created the lactation pod, which is a private stall where breastfeeding women can pump. She has partnered with Medela and Milk Stork to initiate the The New Moms’ Healthy Returns program which ensures that workplaces have a dedicated lactation space and clearly defined lactation policy as well as other protections and benefits for working mothers.
The pandemic has also exposed the weaknesses in the American childcare and education systems as daycares and schools were forced to shut down, forcing many parents, mostly mothers, to leave their jobs to stay home with their children.
As a result, “Expect the issue of employer sponsored daycare to be at the forefront of recruiting and benefits packages going forward,” said James Albertson, CEO of In Demand Careers
With these changing policies come women’s changing attitudes toward work and each other.
For example, according to a recent poll conducted by American Express, 48% of the women surveyed felt that working remotely during the pandemic has caused them to feel more empathetic and understanding.
Krystal Covington, Founder of Women of Denver, feels that the pandemic has opened her eyes to a “new level of authenticity” due to people working from their homes and around their families.
“I've seen husbands come kiss their wives on the cheek, met kids and puppies, and had tours of new homes. It has been a blast and welcome change from meeting in coffee shops and sterile co-working offices,” she said.
As women become more privy to each other’s personal lives and struggles, they are becoming even more supportive of one another. In fact, 60% of the women surveyed vowed to be an ally for other women in their careers and personal lives and 57% promised to be more intentional about supporting women-owned businesses this year. Go women!
While the pandemic has been devastating to the economy over the last year, the pro-female work policies it has left in its wake look like they’re here and they’re not going anywhere.
Contributed by Rebecca Karli
Rebecca Karli is an English Language Learner teacher, freelance writer, and new mom. She also considers herself a humanist and advocate for women and diversity. She lives in Lancaster, PA with her wonderful husband, infant son, dog, Beau, and cat, Frida Kitty Kahlo.