Working women started off this year on a high note. The rapid expansion of industries such as technology, healthcare, and education meant that women were experiencing higher employment numbers than ever before.
But that all changed as the global pandemic accelerated its far-reaching effects across the nation. Where there was once optimism and newfounded opportunities, there is now uncertainty. COVID-19 has impacted all of the workplace advantages that women have worked so hard to achieve. Statistics have shown that women are hit harder by the virus than their male counterparts, so much so that economists are referring to the pandemic as a “she-cession.”
The majority of nurses, service industry workers, flight attendants, and more are predominantly female. In addition to this, women still do more caretaking than men, and now must also figure out what to do with children who are at home due to school closures forced by the pandemic.
How can we best support the women who are shouldering much of the burden during these times?
Emergency benefits for female workers
A crisis rarely gives much warning, so businesses should be prepared on how to accommodate their employees if an unprecedented catastrophe were to happen. They should be willing and able to offer emergency expansions for paid sick time and paid family and medical leave. Non-essential businesses were forced to extend remote work options to employees in response to COVID-19 safety protocols, but this flexible working arrangement should be extended so that workers that must stay home can still do their jobs as if they were in the office.
In addition to these emergency benefits, organizations should also offer paid leave for child care needs, which will significantly ease the burden put on the primary caretakers of the home, which mentioned before, are often women.
A majority of these benefits came in response to the virus, but they must be prolonged for the long-term support of female employees.
Supported employees that were furloughed or laid off
Despite every precaution, some businesses have been forced to either furlough or lay off some or all of their employees. But before these difficult decisions were made, many companies didn’t realize they could try work sharing as an alternative, which reduces employees’ hours and wages without completely cutting off work altogether. Of course, this isn’t ideal when someone needs their full income to support themselves and their family, but it’s better than a total loss of salary.
Additionally, businesses that furlough rather than lay off their employees can still maintain benefits like health and life insurance for employees while they’re temporarily out of work. Millions of Americans have already experienced coronavirus symptoms, so these benefits are critical to ensuring they don’t have to worry about significant out-of-pocket costs to receive exceptional care.
Outside organizations are stepping up
The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) reports that women account for 55 percent of the 20 million jobs that were lost as of a few months ago. Several organizations have stepped in to help these women with their financial losses, including:
- Ellevate Network, which has thought ahead to life post-COVID and has created a fellowship called EllevateHER Forward that offers year-long access to mentorship and networking opportunities, webinars, and resources to help women get back to work as soon as possible.
- Fairygodboss, which is bringing career opportunities to women because they know how time-consuming it is to job search while raising a family and dealing with financial losses from the pandemic. All these women have to do is create a profile on their platform and they can easily apply to these job openings.
- Ellevest, a woman-owned financial firm, which is offering virtual office hours and free online workshops with experts so that women can seek finance and career guidance as they cope with what’s happened and plan and prepare for what’s to come.
As it stands, there’s no telling when the impacts of the global pandemic will subside. While it’s frightening to consider this uncertainty, if we are supporting women in the workplace and women who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, we are setting them up for success now and in the future.