Women still exhausted, exhausted by COVID-era workforce challenges

Caroline Boardman waited years to change careers.

When she finally mustered up the courage, sacrificing comfort as an easy commute for promotion, there were only months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, bringing with it a wave of layoffs.

As one of the last hired into the organization, she was also one of the first to leave.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve waited so long to move on to get another job and now I’m unemployed,'” said Boardman, who describes herself as a hard-working and proud worker.

In the United States, women lost 11.9 million jobs from February to April 2020. And although male workers have regained all the lost jobs, there are still 1.1 million fewer women in the population. active than there was before the pandemic, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). (Data specific to New York City’s female job losses due to the pandemic was not readily available).

While Boardman was unemployed, days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Whenever she should have looked for a new job, she was more concerned with taking care of her mother. When things settled down, she took time out to get a graduate degree rather than go back to work (due in part to her desire for better job security).

Months of fruitless job search efforts – sending out resumes, filling in applications and scrolling through tons of autoresponders – passed before she saw positive news for the first time. . Finally, in June 2022, she accepted a new position as director of communications for the CSEA union.

Although Boardman is now better off than she was before the pandemic, she knows that many of her female counterparts aren’t so lucky.

Women have borne the brunt of job losses due to the pandemic. Gender disparities have left some women exhausted and exhausted, amplifying the need for equitable workforce innovation that encourages a return to work rather than deterring it.

“Why do we continue to work as if there is only one breadwinner and there is someone at home who takes care of the children? Haidy Brown, professor of management at the College of Saint Rose, said. “We just can’t afford it; many of us need a two-income household.

Women of color received an even more severe blow. Food services, recreation, hospitality and retail — all industries that are largely made up of women of color — have seen major changes that have resulted in historically high unemployment rates.

In February 2022, the unemployment rate for white women was 3.1%, compared to nearly 5% for Hispanic women and more than 6% for black women, according to Bureau of Labor data.

Brown said the pandemic may have eliminated so many jobs held by women due to the construction of the workforce around outdated societal norms that lead to women falling behind in advancement instead of work while their male counterparts rise through the ranks.

“It’s archaic, it’s long been dead but it still haunts us,” Brown said.

The child care crisis continues

Inspiring an era of mass closures and layoffs, the pandemic has further tipped the balance against working parents trying to balance their work and family life.

The cost and availability of childcare has put additional strain on working parents, causing some to cave under the increasing weight.

A recent report by The Children’s Agenda found that New York has 1,326 fewer child care programs than before the pandemic.

Melinda Mack, executive director of the New York Association of Training & Employment Professionals, said not only are services scarce, especially in rural areas that experience “childcare desserts,” but costs have also skyrocketed to rates that many parents no longer can. offer oneself.

“If you have to make the decision between paying a ton of money for child care that may not be of high quality or staying home with your children, many women make the choice to stay home” , Mack said.

Men are taking on more family responsibilities than ever before, Mack pointed out, but research still shows that women take on the bulk of household and childcare responsibilities.

To encourage women to return to work, Mack said employers need to maximize scheduling options so working parents can easily be home in time for school pickups and bus stops.

Employers who don’t offer this flexibility may find that they are losing female talent. Most notably, women prefer remote work at a higher rate than men – yet only 52% of women have been offered the option to work remotely compared to 61% of men, according to the American Opportunity Survey by McKinsey.

“As a woman, it’s very frustrating,” Mack said.

look for something new

Three women with no nonprofit experience were recently interviewed for positions at the WNY Women’s Foundation, an organization that advocates for and invests in women in the community, according to CEO Sheri Scavone.

The interviewees were all public school teachers. Exhausted by the pandemic, overworked due to understaffing and demoralized by their undervaluation, they are among many women in the public sector seeking to pivot their career trajectories.

Deloitte Women at Work Report 2022 [PDF] found that 10% of women are actively looking for a new job, with the main reasons cited being burnout (38%), insufficient pay (27%) and lack of opportunities for advancement (13%).

“The pandemic has been a life-changing event and women are looking at their priorities and want to spend more time with their children, and they don’t want to be exhausted all the time or drive everywhere to find childcare or spend half of their family budget on childcare,” Scavone said.

She saw it with her own eyes. A woman she worked with had to quit her job because she was unable to find affordable child care. Another woman she hired was able to work very little in the summer until her children went back to school.

“Great flexibility, a hybrid environment and plenty of time off are choices more and more women are looking for,” Scavone said. “It’s no longer ‘I’m going to work full-time in an extraordinarily difficult job and I’m also going to be a full-time mother and I’m going to take care of everybody’ – I think women are now really trying to find a balance. “

Women are looking for more than flexibility; they also want to occupy more leadership positions where they are an integral part of the decision-making process.

Saint Rose’s Brown said that desire is reflected in the size of its MBA class, which is growing exponentially and includes more women than ever before.

“In the post-pandemic era, the motivation to be decision-makers and leaders skyrockets,” she added.

Michael A. Bynum