At the start of the pandemic, women were losing their jobs at a faster rate than men, giving rise to the term “shecession.” But the future of women at work is looking brighter than people predicted it would be a year ago. According to a research published by the Resolution Foundation in June, women’s average working hours have taken a smaller hit than men’s during the pandemic. This is mainly due to women who don’t have kids working more hours than ever before.
Though full-time employment for women has increased, it is too early to declare the end of the “shecession.” Mothers remain significantly more affected than fathers by school closures and the challenges of homeschooling. In fact, caring responsibilities have already made more women than men quit their jobs. More women will likely exit the workforce for good if someone has to stay home with their kids.
Given the circumstances and the challenges women are currently facing, here are some predictions on what the future of work will look like for women:
Flexibility and a hybrid work environment
With the more housework and childcare expectations placed on women, flexibility is no longer an option, but a necessity. While balancing work and home can be challenging for both parents, according to data from the Pew Research Center, it is the women who are more likely to devote more time to childcare and household work.
To retain talented female employees, family-friendly solutions should be provided to those who need flexibility to attend childcare and eldercare. Employers may offer part-time employment, flexible working hours, job sharing, etc. They can also create programs such as tutoring, paid family leave, childcare support and other initiatives to attract and retain women.
Working remotely has helped women cope with the added roles and responsibilities they’ve taken on since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and even when the pandemic is over, this setup will still be preferred by many women. In June, Apple announced that the company would have its employees return to the office 3 days a week by September, and some employees who are already accustomed to the flexibility of working remotely have pushed back.
Remote work is here to stay, and this is ideal for women (especially mothers and caregivers). This will evolve into a hybrid work model that combines remote work and time in the office.
Rise of female entrepreneurs
Even before the pandemic, many women chose to become entrepreneurs. The number of women-owned businesses grew by 21 percent from 2014 to 2019 with a total of nearly 13 million. This number will continue to climb, given the conditions women are currently facing. With employers unable to meet the flexibility that many women need, many will choose to take on the entrepreneurial path.
Moreover, women are craving more freedom, fulfillment and creativity because despite the progress we’ve seen in the past few years, leadership roles and executive positions are still dominated by men. Starting their own businesses allows many women to fully realize their potential and gain the fulfillment that they couldn’t have gotten if they stayed at a company run by others.
The pandemic made workplaces more authentic as work life and home life intertwined. And this is a good thing. When employees are comfortable being their true selves at work, productivity and creativity increase.
It’s been more challenging for women to bring their full selves to work because sexist behaviors are still prevalent and women are more likely than men to get attention for things like their appearance. Regardless of the challenge, authenticity is more important than ever for women.
It’s harder now to compartmentalize various parts of our lives (work time/personal time) as there is no longer a clear line dividing work and our personal lives. Women do not need the added pressure to portray someone they are not or to hide a part of who they are just to conform.
Women should be their authentic selves to make it easier for them to navigate through their life both at home and at work. It helps in preventing burnout. Being true to yourself will make people at the workplace be more empathetic to your particular challenges, whether it’s health issues, childcare or other another difficult situation.
Moreover, women’s authentic leadership is what companies need. Women shouldn’t act like a man to be an influential leader. In fact, studies show that an authentic female leader is seen as a critical player in an organization’s overall success. They are considered to be a catalyst for meaningful and positive change. It won’t be surprising if more and more women will choose to be truer to themselves at work. Authenticity will always be relevant.
The future for women in the workplace
The pandemic has taught us that change can happen in an instant and as we move into our new normal, we’ll find that many business principles and strategies that were proven to work before will be obsolete.
Change is inevitable. Businesses need to evolve.
But what won’t change is that people, customers, clients, employers and coworkers alike can relate to realness.
While we’re on the topic of realness, have you been listening to the UNprofessional podcast lately?! Whether you have or haven’t (yet), you won’t want to miss this week’s episode. Number 30 is coming in HOT with a controversial topic: COVID-19 vaccinations at work.
Join us on UNprofessional this week as our first-ever guest, Courtney Branson, returns to share her HR and culture expertise about how to navigate discussions about vaccines at work.
In love and respect,