Women’s progress in the workforce post-pandemic is both an economic and equity concern. Women’s progress toward equity in the workforce is on a downward trend currently, and this trend could result in long-term negative effects. Positive action can stop economic and equity losses.
Almost 2.2 million women have dropped out of the US labor market during the COVID 19 pandemic. Women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable that men’s jobs; women made up 46 percent of workers in the US before the pandemic but make up 54 percent of all job losses. Many women have reduced their work hours or put their careers on hold. Reasons for this include additional childcare responsibilities, home-school responsibilities and care for extended family members. Also, women work in jobs that have declined the most during the pandemic such as service in the restaurant and hotel industry and childcare.
The loss of women’s jobs during the pandemic effect could have a lasting effect on equity in the workplace and the global economy. A Deloitte survey shows that almost 82 percent of women said the pandemic has had a negative effect on their career. About 70 percent of those women are worried that their career growth may be limited. They are worried that reducing their work schedule or a gap in employment will affect their career advancement. The global GDP could be $1 trillion lower in 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment were simply equal to and not greater than men’s, McKinsey Global Institute reports. However, with action to improve women’s employment the global GDP could be $12 trillion greater in 2030.
This presents an opportunity for businesses to support employees, especially women, to ensure women’s progress in the workforce post-pandemic. Between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to transition to different jobs by 2030. These jobs will very likely require technical skills. They also will require support from employers so employees can learn the skills. If women have the opportunity to learn the skills they need to make the transition to better paying jobs, it will help close the wage and employment gap. Industries that will recover the best from the pandemic are those that have skilled employees. Providing tuition assistance for women to pursue higher education will ensure that women have skills to fill positions as well as improve gender and financial equity in the workforce. Companies can apply their tuition benefits to support women during the pandemic and retain the valuable talent they need to fill skill gaps. Strategic use of tuition benefits will also ensure women’s progress in the workforce post-pandemic.
Women surveyed in the DeLoitte survey said that leadership and mentoring are also beneficial to their career. These can be valuable components of tuition benefits, especially as women struggle with the effects of the pandemic. Helping women develop career paths ensures that their education will be relevant. Business leadership, career advising and mentoring women who are struggling during the pandemic will help ensure that women can find equity in the labor market. Mentoring women to develop the technical skills they will need to transition to new jobs is important to both employees and employers.
The effects of using tuition benefits to promote women’s progress in the workforce post-pandemic will be long-term, for individuals and across the economy. Kate Behncken, vice present and lead at Microsoft Philanthropies says, “Covid-19 is accelerating digital transformation across all industries, and as a result, in the post-Covid-19 economy almost every job will require some level of digital skills and digital fluency. The pandemic has also exacerbated what was already a widening skills gap around the world — a gap that will need to be closed with even greater urgency if we are to promote a fair and inclusive economic recovery.” Tuition assistance is the tool that can close the skill gap and create the opportunity for equity in the labor market and economic equity.
By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator
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