Women around the world recently watched history in the making as Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President of the United States. After trailing behind men for many years, it was beginning to appear more common to see headlines of females in high level, leadership roles across a range of sectors, from CEO’s to female owned and led businesses.
2020 then threw us a curveball as the world entered the Pandemic. The words “new normal” grate on most of us these days. For many, this new normal led to job losses with some industries coming to a complete halt, as the way we lived our lives changed overnight. I don’t think many of us had our careers prepared and mapped out for what these changes brought.
Before Covid, stats showed there were 30.1 million male and 29.1 million female workers aged 18 to 55 who had at least one child in their households in the USA. However, as the pandemic hit between January and September, the USA saw the largest net decline from the workforce was among women with two children, down 3.8 points, and among women whose oldest child is 2 to 6 years old, down 5.6 points. By October 2020, there were 2.2million fewer women in the labour force than in October 2019. Here in Canada, between February and October, 20,600 women fell out of the labour force while 68,000 men joined.
For some, we’ve seen our homes become both an office and children’s classroom as we continue to experience a lack of childcare options. So with the number of women steadily leaving the workforce, it raises the question, are women paying the price of their career during this pandemic?
Deloitte carried out a study of nearly 400 women across 9 countries, nearly 70% of which have experienced career disruptions and are concerned career growth may be limited as a result of the pandemic. It’s no surprise that Deloitte concluded that actions taken by employers will be critical in women’s working advancement post pandemic. Midway through 2020, RBC warned that Canadian women had paid and would continue to pay- a heavier price than men during the pandemic- induced recession.
With vaccines not moving as quickly as we would hope in Canada and in many other parts of the world, our new normal isn’t leaving us anytime soon. Therefore, what can employers do to support their workforce? The overall percentage of women in the workforce had grown steadily each decade narrowing the gender gap however in a matter of weeks during spring 2020, Covid-19 rolled back the clock on three decades of advances in women’s labour-force participation, setting Canada’s economy up for a slower recovery than might otherwise be the case. Let’s hope employers take action to retain and support their employees so that we can once again continue to close that gap between male and females in the workforce.