Beyond the pandemic: Helping Women Overcome Challenges at Work and Home

Work From Home

Women are vital to the workforce. Yet we still face more difficulties than men do throughout the course of our careers, from gender-based discrimination and pay gaps to stereotypes and glass ceilings. And the pandemic highlighted a key factor that often sidetracks women’s careers: the impact of caring for children and loved ones.

According to the latest Women in the Workplace report, released by McKinsey, women are even more burned out now than they were in 2020, and the burnout gap between women and men has almost doubled. In fact, one in three women has considered leaving the workforce or downshifting her career — up significantly from one in four during the first few months of the pandemic.

This is likely a result of a convergence of circumstances, including the additional parenting and emotional labor women have done as the home became the schoolhouse, the office, and the refuge from COVID-19 all in one.

As business professionals and leaders, there are ways we can help smooth the way for our fellow women in the workforce as we all continue to manage through the daily grind and move ever closer to what we want. Here are three concrete actions we can take to support that effort.

Be flexible.

Recently, my mother broke her hip. My sisters and I adjusted our work and personal schedules to take turns caring for her. I also took care of my fiancé as he was healing from an ankle injury. Many of us take on the role of caretaker for family, friends, and other loved ones.

In another example, two employees at my company were struggling because they needed to take immediate action for family members. One had to move their mother to a care facility, and another dealt with a mother with a broken hip. I gave them both paid leave. I let those team members know their jobs were safe and they could focus on family.

Depending on the needs of a company’s employees, flexible and reduced-hour schedules could help them manage their many responsibilities. Employees appreciate expressions of humanity from their managers and leaders, often feeling more loyalty to companies when they encounter flexibility rather than rigidity.

Increase awareness and action.

As the McKinsey report indicates, women are more likely than our male counterparts to support our teams and advocate for women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities. The more we continue to do that — and promote women to management-level positions, which is the most challenging hurdle for women to get on the corporate leadership track — the more we will be helping fellow women succeed.

Accommodate remote work.

Insisting that employees work in offices is rapidly becoming an icon of the past. With the pandemic requiring so many workers to do their jobs from home — and tasks being accomplished effectively and successfully — remote and hybrid work options will likely become the norm, especially for professionals.

A survey by theSkimm found that two-thirds of millennial women view remote work as a priority, yet they’re concerned that they may not have the same opportunities for advancement if they’re not in the office. Female leaders can play a role in ensuring that remote work and career advancement occur concurrently.

Women face numerous obstacles in the pursuit of fulfilling and enriching careers, but they don’t have to be deal-breakers. With awareness, effort, and a strong network of fellow women leaders to rely on, we women can achieve the goals we set for ourselves and help make others’ lives better in the process.

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Leigh Anne Lankford is president at TrainingPros. Her expertise is in learning and development (L&D) with a background in instructional design, project management, eLearning and facilitation in the health care, software development, finance and service industries. Prior to TrainingPros, she founded an eLearning tool company and worked in various corporate training positions. Lankford received a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of West Georgia and a master’s degree in human resource development from Georgia State University. She also earned an Information Mapping® Professional™ Certification and a Six Sigma Green Belt certification, and she is an active member of the Association for Talent Development. When learning leaders have more projects than they have people, TrainingPros can provide the right L&D consultants so they can start their projects with confidence. TrainingPros is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. Visit TrainingPros for more information.


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