Workforce Solutions
July 18, 2023

The Impact of the Pandemic on Women Workers

Cogent Infotech
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Dallas, TX
July 18, 2023

As we move forward into 2022, it seems that the relatively widespread vaccination campaigns may have forestalled the need for total lockdowns in the future. However, there will be persistent threats from new mutants and fresh waves of Covid.

Work, and workplaces, seem to be returning to pre-pandemic systems, with some significant variations. A key one is the emergence of hybrid workspaces that blend the advantages of remote working with face-to-face interaction.

Have the past two years enhanced or hampered the rise of gender-neutrality and diversity in workplaces? 

What does this mean for women in the workforce? What can corporate leaders do to ensure that change moves in a positive direction, at least where these parameters are concerned?

Impact of the Pandemic on Women Workers

Before delving deeper, let's step back and look at what data tells us. Studies indicate that the extended lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 took a disproportionate toll on women workers. It is reported that over 33% of women who lost jobs in the period will not return to work and that nearly 25% of those at mid-to higher corporate levels will either reduce commitments at work or give up their jobs altogether in the future. Some have dubbed the shake-up a female recession.

Another research study revealed that almost 50% of women respondents said they were not very confident about the future of their working life in a post-pandemic world.

On the other hand, as the last few years have shown, women who shoulder dual responsibilities at home and work have found it relatively easier to strike a balance on all fronts when they have had to work from home (WFH).

Are there Hidden Biases in Hybrid Workspaces?

Against this background, it is necessary to look more closely at the emerging hybrid workplaces and ask, how gender-neutral will they be?

Other things being equal, it seems likely that more women than men will choose the remote working option and opt to do so more frequently when given a choice. One study estimated that 19% of women, but only 7% of men, would opt out of in-person attendance if they could do so without it significantly impacting their status or benefits.

Many women fear that they will be trading in growth opportunities in return for flexibility. Corporates may knowingly or unknowingly tend toward giving greater responsibility to those who attend office more often, thus enhancing their chances for promotions.

Old Challenges will persist.

Remember that this emerging threat only adds to the existing challenges that women have always faced at traditional workplaces. Earlier gender biases, such as:

  • An overall gender imbalance in numerical terms
  • The failure to strictly implement an equal pay for equal work principle
  • The grudging manner in which concessions like additional leave for pregnancies, early motherhood months, and regular menstrual cycles are approved
  • The lack of adequate child-care systems in many countries
  • A tendency to persist with gender stereotyping

A less obvious but equally long-standing issue is the imbalance in growth opportunities, especially at the first level. Many years ago, this was dubbed as the broken rung syndrome, when it was revealed that for every 100 men promoted to the junior-most level of managerial cadre, only 86 women made the cut of the same grade.

The Way Forward

There is a growing need for farsighted leadership to recognize these problems and act to overcome them.

If forward-thinking managers wish to enhance equality and diversity at the workplace, some of the areas they need to pay attention to include:

  • Find ways to make sure that those who work remotely are on a level playing field with their counterparts in the office
  • Develop training systems and tools that consciously combat gender biases
  • Encourage a workplace culture that is flexible and egalitarian
  • Build systems that monitor and assess progress in diversity and equality issues
  • Create a system of rewards to recognize efforts in these fields.

Unexpected Benefits

A farsighted leadership that can help create a solid in-house culture that encompasses these aspects may be helping their companies, in the long run, more significantly than seems apparent at first.

In today's world, where there is a greater emphasis on work-life balance and a stronger appreciation of the less-tangible and non-monetary aspects of growth, bringing women into leadership may be a step in the right direction. With their higher emotional intelligence and abilities to empathize and assist, they may prove to be a welcome addition to a leadership team that will work in a world far different from the one we have known till now.

For more such articles, visit the Cogent Infotech website.

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