The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been well-documented. From GDP contractions to spikes in unemployment, the wide-ranging impact is being observed by numerous reports dedicated to tracking national losses. Now, a new report has revealed another victim of this economic nightmare—the working woman. While we had previously written about the gender-specific fallout from the pandemic, the latest Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org reports that women are sacrificing career advancements for the sake of the family.
The study, which featured a survey of 40,000 people and 317 companies in corporate America, emphasizes the emotional and financial pressures the events of 2020 have placed on career women who have had to juggle between excelling in the office and managing affairs at home.
“The pandemic has intensified challenges that women already faced…many feel like they’re ‘always on’ now that the boundaries between work and home have blurred,” the report states. “They’re worried about their family’s health and finances. Burnout is a real issue.”
Working mothers and black women are specially affected by this, as they typically have additional economic factors that militate against them—black women make 21% less than white women and working mothers struggle to attain career advancement.
For this reason, more than one in four women are contemplating downshifting their careers or quitting their jobs entirely, a development which squanders years of progress made in the achievement of gender inclusivity in the workplace. The research speculates that this could set women back six years in the workplace.
33% of working mothers are thinking about leaving the work force or taking up less-demanding jobs, as they are 1.5 times as likely as fathers to spend three or more additional hours on childcare and housework.
Despite this, companies are hardly making any efforts towards flexibility and empathy in scheduling. Less than a third of companies have committed to adjusting their performance review criteria to account for the effects of the pandemic. Nearly 40% of women report being constantly exhausted at work the past few months.
This is especially so for women holding senior-level positions, about 55% of whom complain of exhaustion in the coronavirus-influenced workplace. The financial significance of these senior-level women in the workplace cannot be overstated; companies with adequate female representation at the top enjoy 50% higher rates of profits and share performance. Now, senior-level women are 1.5 times as likely as men to consider relinquishing their positions mostly due to persistent burnout during these times.
The study suggests that for the economy to survive this and for female representation in the workplace to be sustained at a healthy rate, companies have to “recognize the scale of these problems and do all they can to address them, they can help their employees get through this difficult time and even reinvent the way they work so it’s more flexible and sustainable for everyone.”
Thankfully, some progress is being made. The option of remote working is becoming more and more attractive to corporations in the era of social distancing and enforced lockdowns. 93% of companies allow some jobs to be performed remotely and almost 70% says they would consider making their remote working arrangement permanent for some positions.