International Women’s Day
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021. The theme for this year is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
March 2021 is significant for two reasons. First, March is Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate and recognize women’s contributions throughout American history in various fields. Women have been instrumental and have made significant advances in the workforce with contributions to science, medicine, art, technology and more.
Second, this March marks a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States, enacting quarantines and shutdowns, forcing people to work from home and children to move to virtual learning. The pandemic has added another challenge for women in the workplace already faced with pre-existing social and systemic barriers to women’s participation and leadership. With the additional responsibility of 24/7 childcare and home education, study after study has found that working moms suffer from disproportionate levels of burnout and stress.
Many are dropping out of the workforce altogether to help support their families at home. According to data from the US Department of Labor (USDOL), over 2.3 million women nationwide have dropped out of the workforce since the start of the pandemic, with nearly half of them mothers. In fact, according to the USDOL, “Since February 2020, the economy has lost over 9.8 million jobs, and women account for 55 percent of those losses. Of the 140,000 positions lost in December 2020, strikingly, women accounted for all of them. Conversely, men gained 16,000 jobs that month.”
Besides having to leave the workforce by choice or due to job eliminations, women that have maintained jobs throughout the pandemic have been forced to miss more work than ever because of childcare constraints. A USA TODAY analysis of new Census data shows Americans missed more work than ever before due to childcare problems in 2020, and women shouldered almost exclusively the burden.
Helping Mom’s Reenter the Workforce
We need to focus on ways we can support women reentering the workforce and support those that have additional caregiving needs through safe school reopening, investments in childcare and paid family leave. In addition, there are ways organizations can continue to support working mothers.
- Be clear in job expectations and performance standards and share upcoming company plans. For example, if your company has a specific return-to-office date, communicate that early so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
- Implement parent-friendly scheduling policies and ensure everyone knows it is ok to use them. We keep saying we are all in this together. It is imperative for working mothers to know we support them with changes to schedules that support their current family life and know they can make these changes without fear of repercussion.
- Managers need to continue to be empathetic with remote workers. Everyone has had to implement more empathy in the workplace as we have navigated the pandemic, and it must continue. Children are still home; what we viewed as a cute interruption or inconvenience at the start of the pandemic can still be happening, and we need to continue to be empathetic for everyone’s situation.
- More important than ever, as women we need to lift each other up. Encourage the hiring of women who prioritized helping their children with online schooling.
Engaging Women in Tech Fields
In addition to supporting women as they reenter the workforce, we need to address the fact that the tech industry is still male dominated, with women struggling to break into the business and fewer and fewer women choosing technology and telecom.
Although we see positive trends in the tech sector where more companies are promoting women, perhaps the root of these issues begins with our nations’ educational systems. Many young women in universities decide against studying a field within technology. For example, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects computer science research jobs will grow 19 percent by 2026, women only earn 18 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the United States. It’s now more imperative than ever that we stay laser-focused on our goal to achieve universal gender equality and never to let our efforts waver. Amidst these obstacles, there are organizations that generate equal rights for women.
Girls in Tech is a global non-profit that was formed to engage, educate and empower women to study and pursue careers in technology. Girls Who Code is another organization with the mission of closing the gender gap for women in technology and encouraging and fostering their involvement in the industry. Forming groups like these and integrating curriculums in schools early on will instill a more solid foundation for women to spark an interest and ultimately build a career in technology.
In addition, technology and telecom organizations can do the following to support women in their organization:
- Support organizations that help women transition back into the workforce.
- Encourage and support girls who are interested in tech and coding, providing them resources they need to succeed.
- Celebrate and support organizations like Girls in Tech and Girls Who Code.
- Push the tech and telecom industry to promote women into C-level positions.
- Start mentoring programs for incoming young women within organizations to provide additional support.
This last year has been a challenge for all of us, especially women. In the spirit of this year’s IWD, we should all do what we can to help working moms who had to leave the workforce to support their kids during remote working and empower young women to choose a career in technology. We hope you join us in celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 and achieving an equal future for women.