This post looks at the COVID-19 world somewhat differently than most commentators do today. It does not take a traditional point of view on work and women’s careers. Thanks largely to the pandemic, the reality is that this world, and the traditions that go with it, no longer exist.
The opinions collectively expressed by digital, social and mainstream media are that COVID-19 has had, and possibly will continue to have, a negative impact on women’s careers. Which is why business media, including vanguards such as Forbes, deem it necessary to explain, Why Covid-19-Related Job Losses Are Hitting Women the Hardest.
On the digital front, properties like Quartz attract readers by justifying…Why, Unlike in the Great Recession, Covid-19 has been harder on jobs held by women.
Many of these seemingly factual, yet incomplete, critiques and assessments by the media are based upon a higher percentage of women working in healthcare, education, retail and hospitality (i.e., a large swath of the so-called “service sector”.)
There is no denying that COVID-19 has taken a toll on these employment sectors. And, due to the higher concentrations, I get that women currently have greater exposure working in these fields and professions. Headlines of this type seem to proliferate, they are front and center at this moment during the spread of the virus. However, after we weather the initial phase of this crisis, I believe we will look back upon it and realize they were only but an incomplete part of the full pandemic story.
Are women’s careers really at a loss in the era of Covid-19? They certainly don’t have to be. If you step back for a moment and carefully read this and the next two upcoming posts we’ll feature on this topic, you will begin to see a more complete picture. It is important for you to internalize how benefits also come from what many of us thought were tragedies (a.k.a., something we lost.) Here’s why I believe you have a lot more to gain than lose from what’s been perceived to be a once-in-a-lifetime crisis.
Coronavirus is not only an illness that constantly morphs staying one evolution ahead of our ability to predict its occurrence or subsequent outcomes. It’s more than what it appears to be. CV-19 will act as a trigger, or catalyst, to multiply progress which was happening well before this outbreak hit. It is in the middle of this murky state of good and bad consequences where a new order, and opportunities, begin to emerge.
Even now, COVID-19 is establishing a buildable foundation upon which knowledge workers, the majority of those being women, can work far more constructively in the future. This dynamic platform has taken an organizational construct in the “working from home” movement.
The experiment America has conducted since our lock down in March has neither been trivial nor has it taken place within a small sample size. It was a large-scale, nationwide, socio-work experiment the likes of which we have never witnessed before. And, although it wasn’t without challenges, it proved that all of us can work productively and constructively from our home offices.
Working from home was unplanned and born out of necessity, but it will improve to increasingly become a more productive means, and common way, of structuring work for a new class of professionals. Employers recognized this almost immediately and are using “work from home” as an employment benefit to retain and recruit top talent. During recovery, and as we move slowly toward full employment, it will be widely accepted, adopted and commonly practiced. Look for it to have staying power as more of a permanent, rather than an optional, HR policy. And, viewed as an employment trend, it stands to benefit more women. Here’s why the work from home movement will result in several benefits for your career:
1) It makes the promise of work-life balance much more achievable now than it ever was before the pandemic hit. In doing so there is more of a reasonable expectation to believe that life outside of work will follow. Prior to COVID-19, while it was always an ideal situation to strive for, W-L balance wasn’t realistically happening. Which is why only privileged women, who were able to succeed, more accurately referred to it as “achieving a lopsided balance.”
2) It creates more of a level playing field with men. While building relationships remains critical to the enhancement and progression of everyone’s career, the good ole boy network that existed before COVID-19 will now be more difficult to sustain. As in Japan, where drinks and socializing with colleagues after work – exclusively among bros – set the stage for all things that benefited men’s careers. Everything from job assignments, to built-in paths for mentorships, to a means of determining compensation and future promotion will now be evaluated and decided upon using a different point of reference (i.e., less subjective set of criteria.)
On the personal side, working from home increases both exposure times and opportunities for men to co-parent and become more actively involved raising their children and with family life. If women allow house-sharing responsibilities to happen – by openly welcoming, embracing and facilitating such changes – it has the potential to help relieve household chores more women have to deal with outside of work. Rather than doubling up with work to also be primary care providers, shoppers and house cleaners, sharing such responsibilities with men allows women more time to enjoy life or use it to invest in the ongoing development of their careers.
3) It means you are judged less on gender and more on performance. With less time spent in the office, women won’t have the added pressure of being politically correct or playing office politics nearly as much they had to before CV-19 hit. With less stress and distractions, women are more apt to focus on delivering quality work. Because women are great multitaskers and high-volume producers they have the ability to outperform their peers at work. Higher-quality outputs will open up opportunities for greater productivity and performance which will be evaluated closer than ever by supervisors, hiring managers and operations. When women are judged on the basis of such performance, there is a higher likelihood that more of them will deliver results. In doing so, they’ll have sufficient opportunities to build successful careers.
4) It reduces delays in traffic and commute time to work. This benefits women along with men. In doing so, it frees up valuable time for both genders to enjoy life and excel at doing their jobs. If women waste less time and use it more effectively than men, which based upon research seems to be true, it holds more promise for women to leverage having more time to benefit their careers.
I hope this post will underscore the importance of having the right mindset on the current circumstances of the day. While our culture is presenting an outdated, traditional point of view on women and work during this crisis, you certainly have the ability to make some of your own decisions. Rather than self loath and deprecate, you can choose to adapt and seize upon new opportunities created in the wake of COVID-19. The work-from-home movement ushers in a larger platform that will accommodate, and stand to benefit, more women’s careers. Your talent, confidence and initiative will allow you to make the most of career opportunities created by our response to the crisis and its subsequent movement.
Join us as we cover the second and third installments in this series on Women & Work in the Era of CV.