Right now, as we ease out of a year-long lockdown, companies should be looking to replenish their workforce and women need to be part of the plans. Any switched-on company that is serious about addressing diversity and inclusion, closing its gender pay gap and plugging its female talent pipeline, should just reflect for a moment on the disproportionate toll this pandemic has already taken on women.
According to the Office of Fiscal Studies:
- Women are twice as likely to have lost their jobs
- Mothers have done two thirds of the additional 40 hours of home-schooling per month
- Mothers who have worked during the pandemic were 50% more likely to have had their work interrupted compared to fathers, which has meant that women either had to quit their job or become less productive
Quite understandably, women are exhausted. But exhausted does not mean they don’t want to work or are not motivated to pursue their careers. It simply means that they need time to recharge. As we move back to work, women will need consideration and respect as they get used to the new normal. Bear in mind too, that we still cannot be sure what happens next. All of us – but particularly mothers – quietly dread the prospect of going back into another lockdown and the home-schooling scenario. We don’t yet know if we can travel to see family, go on that desperately needed holiday or how we’ll be able to entertain our children during the long, fast approaching summer holidays. This uncertainty means, no one can make any concrete plans.
This is the reality that we are all living with, there is a real disconnect between work and family life. No one is in control of this, just because companies are super keen to bounce high and fast out of lockdown doesn’t mean they can and/or will be able to recruit the required workforce to get them back on track.
So, here’s what I would say to employers of all kinds who are impatient to hire new female talent as they come out of lockdown. If you want to hire brilliant women, now is the time to have a different conversation. Now’s the time to be patient, respectful and open to talking about how and when they can do the role that your company is so keen for them to do.
Remember, even before the pandemic the women of the UK have been compromised in the workforce, which is why so many companies have an acute gap in their female talent pipeline and an uncomfortably high gender pay gap. Pre-pandemic, companies let go of the women they now desperately need to hire. When they went on maternity leave, their current job was restructured; When asked to work flexibly, there was an assumption that they could fit the 5 days work into 4 days, recompensed accordingly, or, paid off with an NDA.
So, now’s the time to earn their trust and reignite their desire to pursue their career within your company. How about starting that conversation as follows: “We would like to offer you the job – you tell us when it would work for you to start. Also, how can we support you to come out of lockdown on terms that work for you and for us”. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship...