Covid-19 prompts career changes for women

A quarter of women are re-thinking their careers in light of Covid-19.

One in 4 women in the US are considering downshifting their careers or leaving their jobs due to Covid-19 according to new data from Lean In and McKinsey & Company.

The newly released “Women in the Workplace” report shows that women are being disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Its findings revealed that a quarter of women are thinking of abandoning the workforce due to the impact of Covid-19.

“This is the most alarming report we’ve ever seen,” Facebook’s chief operating officer and Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg told CNBC’s Make It. “I think what’s happening is this report confirms what people have suspected, but we haven’t really had the data, which is that the coronavirus is hitting women incredibly hard and really risks undoing the progress we’ve made for women in the workforce.”

The report suggests that Covid-19 could erase years of progress for women. For the first time in the six years the report has been done, researchers are seeing evidence of women leaving the workforce at higher rates than men. In the previous six years of this study, the data showed women and men leaving their companies at similar rates.

This increase can mostly be attributed to the ongoing caregiving crisis women face, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic as childcare demands on parents have grown.

According to the research, mothers are three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for the majority of housework and childcare during Covid-19. Additionally, mothers are twice as likely to worry that their work performance is being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. The report says as a consequence, many senior-level women are feeling burnt out from the tremendous demands at work and at home.

Sandberg points out that even before the pandemic mothers were already working a double shift at their job and then performing housework and childcare. “Now with Covid-19, what you have is a double-double shift,” she explains.

“Mothers are spending 20 more hours a week on housework and childcare during coronavirus than fathers. Twenty more hours a week is half of a full-time job.”

Despite the gains that have been made in corporate female leadership over the past few years, the data shows that women are still being held back by the “broken rung”, which is a woman’s first promotion to manager. According to Lean In and McKinsey & Company data, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women are promoted at the same rate, For Latina and black women, this disparity is even larger with just 58 black women and 71 Latinas being promoted to manager for every 100 men.

Sandberg says to better support all women in the workplace, including minorities, corporate leaders need to do a better job at promoting, mentoring and sponsoring women, as well as a better job at understanding the pressures women are facing during this unique time.

“We have to recognise that what was possible when your kids were going to school outside the home is not possible when your kids are in school in the home,” she says. “We think companies should re-set goals. We think companies should extend deadlines and we think companies should reflect this in their performance.”

To illustrate the point, she says at Facebook they cancelled their performance cycle for the first half of the year and paid everyone 100 percent of their bonus so that people would know that they meant it when they said, ‘Take care of yourself.’”

Sandberg says while different companies have various systems, leaders must evolve those systems so that employees know their situation is appreciated and respected.