The “She-cession”: And What We Can Do About It

We are fresh off International Women’s Day, midway through Women’s History Month, and currently celebrating Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s birthday. At the same time, the economic headwinds for women are dire. For many, me included, the weight of the “She-cession” is overwhelming. What was supposed to be a short-term problem turned into a turbulent year. We all know someone that is a victim of it. As of last fall more than 2.5 million women left the labor force in the US. For far too many women, it was not by choice. For all the years of telling women to put their heads down, work hard, sacrifice and or “figure it out” the pandemic erased 30 years of progress for the U.S. female workforce in the space of a few months.

While the economic reality of the “She-cession” is here and it’s harsh, all is not lost. There are ways to bring women back to the workforce fast. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. First, start from the top. Leaders must commit to building a resilient and agile workforce by assessing and hiring for strengths, resiliency and learning agility. This shift will elevate women and help companies compete and win in today’s changing world.
  2. Second, employers and in particular people managers need to be flexible. The traditional 9 to 5 workday and workplace needs a new look. The pandemic highlighted irrevocable cracks that must be resolved. Talent leaders can look to companies like Salesforce and Spotify for shining examples of retooling the traditional work day and new thinking around workspaces for today’s reality of work.
  3. Third, foster a truly inclusive work culture that embraces and invests in high performing talent. Talent leaders must broaden their lens to acknowledge and reward the contributions women make every single day. Many bring empathetic leadership, collaborative approaches, and informed and pragmatic decision making to their individual roles and organizations.
  4. Fourth, now is the time to throw the gauntlet down and make well-being a strategic priority. Employers can revisit policies to make sure female employees do not burn out and opt out of their roles.
  5. Next, provide sponsorship, mentorship, and coaching. These options will make a huge difference in keeping women in the workforce and advancing in their careers.
  6. Now is the time to invest in upskilling. Why? Many of the jobs lost during the pandemic are not coming back. According to Gina Raimondo, the new U.S. Secretary of Commerce almost all of the new job growth will require more than a high school education. Organizations need to invest in upskilling and training for these new jobs.
  7. Also critical, bring some creativity to employee benefits. For example, some employers have introduced subsidies to help defer childcare costs. Government policy and private partnerships are necessary to support women re-entering and remaining in the labor force, but don’t wait, start now.
  8. Finally, commit to ending pay inequity. Forget about performative gestures, it’s time to end pay inequity, once and for all. If we want to recruit and retain talent, employers should figure out ways to pay women, like they pay men.
  9. In closing, business transformation requires intentionality and especially now during the global pandemic. Together, as individuals, executive leaders, and employers, WE CAN put our collective strengths to work. And if we do so, we will transition out of this global crisis stronger. Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and elevating women is a way end the “She-cession” faster.