As employers try to retain employees, studies have found that Women’s post pandemic career desires remain high.
We continue to honour Women’s History Month by celebrating women and highlighting the hurdles they still face on their way to a more equitable place in society and in the workplace.
In that vein, HP released a survey this week it had commissioned to get an idea of how women feel about their careers after the pandemic. The survey was conducted between January 24 and February 7, 2022 on a sample of 6,211 adults in the US, Canada, UK, Mexico and India.
Right at the start of the pandemic, an astonishing proportion of Americans lost their jobs. Layoffs had a significant impact on low-paid occupations and face-to-face jobs that were not frontline occupations, such as health care workers and grocery workers. Women were hit particularly hard for their consultations in low-paid and personal jobs. So much so that this recession has been called a “shecession.”
If women didn’t lose their jobs, they might have had to let them go because they had to take care of children and other relatives. Their lower-paying jobs made their careers unavailable. The most recent monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that men have made up for all of their job losses since February 2020, while there were more than 1 million fewer women in the workforce in January 2022 than in February 2020.
Over the past two years, I’ve discussed extensively how women’s role as primary caregivers in their families often leads to career compromises. Remote and hybrid work have the potential to open up more career opportunities for women in the long run, as long as management stays connected to the wants and needs of their talent. Gone are the days when organizations could afford to conduct an employee survey once a year, took months to share the data, and had nothing to show by the time the new poll comes out.
Since the start of the pandemic, HP has conducted listening sessions and pulse surveys to understand how it can support women and other underrepresented groups. Once HP learned what its talent needed, it made changes to its range of benefits and empowered managers to do good through their team. HP increased its wellness benefits and gave managers the flexibility to tailor solutions for their direct reports to meet their needs, from flexibility to sponsorship programs to tutoring programs for their children. Recognizing that one size fits all may not be good enough anymore, large companies will have to offer much more flexibility, both at the local and team level. The truth was that one size fits all was never good enough, but employees had less visibility into what was available outside their organization and worked around what they had. Social media has changed employment rules somewhat, with talent being much more aware of what some employers are willing to do to attract and retain people.
When it comes to women, HP’s Chief People Officer Kristen Ludgate is spot on when she says that now is the time for companies to act, because we cannot afford to lose more women in the workforce. Not only that, but we can’t afford to make the workforce more inclusive for underrepresented groups in general.
While internal pulse surveys are critical to developing retention and engagement strategies, an external survey like the one HP just commissioned gives a good idea of the talent pool available and provides information about each acquisition strategy.
Flexibility and opportunities
Despite the need to compromise between family and work, the study confirms that many women are still eager to advance in their careers, with one in three in the US applying for promotions last year. Yet only 40% of women who applied for a promotion last year managed to get it, compared to 52% of men. When we look at the motives that fuel that desire, we quickly discover some of the challenges women face in the workplace. First, the pay gap: the main reason why women apply for a promotion is to increase income (66%) compared to 55% of men. Lack of recognition: More women (42%) than men (31%) say they are seeking a promotion because they are already performing higher-level tasks outside their position.
In recent weeks, as Covid infections continue to decline and restrictions are lifted, we have seen companies open offices and welcome employees. Some make it very clear that they want all their talent back in the office. I firmly believe that not providing flexibility will lead to a loss of talent or, perhaps worse, a surge of unengaged talent that does not leave. The ability to manage work and personal life (56%) was the top reason women in the US said they wanted to stay with their current company. Let’s not forget that for black women, returning to the office doesn’t just mean a lack of flexibility. Often, returning to the office means returning to a world of micro-aggressions and code switching and all those issues that just started to be addressed just before the pandemic. However, flexibility alone is not enough to retain or attract women. What will matter to women and other underrepresented groups is that if they choose to work remotely, the chances of advancement will not diminish. Unfortunately, only 17% believe the remote working model is most ideal for progressive women and underrepresented groups.
Equity and Inclusion
The survey also found that workers feel encouraged by the gender equality measures taken by their employers. In the US, about half of people say their companies are putting more effort into combating gender discrimination than in the past. Not surprisingly, however, more men (54%) than women (42%) agree that their company is taking more steps towards gender equality.
However, what the past few years have shown is that the bar has been raised and that employees no longer accept performative efforts, but want actual initiatives that are rooted in the business and drive real change. In addition, the survey found, younger workers expect more action from employers. About two in five Generation Zers (39%) and Millennials (41%) believe their company’s efforts have declined lately, compared to just 24% of Generation Xers and 16% of Baby Boomers who are so. think over.
Across the board, tech companies have set goals to grow the number of women in the organization and in leadership roles. HP is the first Fortune 100 technology company to pledge to achieve gender equality by 2030. However, there are several ways to move the diversity needle and in technology a major goal is to grow women in technical positions and engineering where HP has set a target of 30% by 2030. I always point out that there is no better way for a company to attract more women and other members of underrepresented groups than to show that there is an opportunity to grow within the company. Today, more than 30 percent of HP’s leaders are women, which is sure to help the company on its path to gender equality.
Topic: Women’s post pandemic careers