4 Ways to Support Female Team Members After COVID. Research increasingly finds that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. What can employers do to support female team members? 

Women, especially women of color, have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2020 study conducted by McKinsey & Company, women comprise roughly 39 percent of global employment, but have accounted for 54 percent of all pandemic-related job losses. 

Even as the pandemic wanes, many women continue to face long-term hurdles to their career development due to inaccessible childcare options or gaps in their work history from forced time off. What can employers do to provide better support to these female team members? 

Consider these 4 benefits that can help provide much needed support to women in your post-pandemic workforce. 

1. Facilitate flexibility for all employees.

It comes as no surprise that many women with families are still the primary caregivers in their homes. In fact, according to research from the Society of Human Resource Management, as many as one in five people know a woman who left the workforce during the pandemic in order to handle child care that became suddenly inaccessible after daycares and schools closed.

Consider pivoting your team to a results-focused rather than time-focused schedule. This can not only support productivity, but also keep workers less stressed and more focused as they know they have support for their duties both at work and at home. 

2. Provide paid parental leave for new parents, regardless of gender.

Similarly, if your workers are welcoming a new family member as part of the anticipated post-COVID baby boom, aim to provide mothers and fathers alike with paid parental leave. According to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 21% of US workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. This puts the U.S. well behind any other wealthy country, where paid parental leave is not only available, but often nationally mandated.

Paid parental leave has been shown to help combat income inequality and improve job continuity, especially for lower-income families. Plus, providing leave to men in addition to women normalizes the practice and combats the “motherhood” bias. This is a prejudice that women may face in competitive fields should they choose to take time off work to be with their new children.

3. When hiring new team members, be realistic about the gaps in work history related to the pandemic.

For those women forced out of the workforce by the pandemic, returning to the office may not be as simple as picking up their careers where they left off. Even as they return to work, many women fear long-term damage to their career trajectory and salaries, which have been thrown off track by the unexpected absence. When approaching the hiring process after COVID, try not to penalize applicants who may have been forced to take time off work due to the pandemic. 

4. Institute (and stick to) pay equity measures among team members.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be sure that you compensate your female workers with the same criteria you use to compensate male employees. On average, white women still earn only 79 cents to every dollar that their male coworkers earn for the same positions. Women of color are often even more significantly impacted, earning anywhere from 54 to 62 cents on the dollar compared to white men.

One idea some companies are using to successfully address this issue is to conduct transparent salary audits. This holds the company accountable and signals to potential employees that there is an active effort to achieve equity. Another successful strategy is banning inquiries about past salaries. This effort stops employers from importing unequal salaries from past companies.

Gender equality benefits all employees in your organization. Be sure to review and update your strategy for gender parity often to make sure you’re supporting the team members who may need it most.

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