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COVID-19 Pushing Career-Driven Women Out of the Workforce

April 14, 2021 Marisa Iacobucci  
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As a professional woman in finance and operations, are you still struggling to find work-life balance a year after COVID-19 turned our worlds upside down? You’re not alone. According to a recent Women in the Workplace study, more than one in four women are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely across industries. But with an understanding of what women need and want in the workplace along with the right approach to workforce planning, there are ways for organizations to support women and keep them employed.

In its sixth year, the study, which tracks women in the workplace statistics in corporate America, was conducted between June and September of 2020. It’s based on contributions from 317 participating companies. More than 40,000 people were surveyed on their workplace experiences and 45 in-depth interviews were also conducted to dive deeper into issues.

Overall, the study found that women in particular were negatively impacted by the pandemic and that it was women, especially women of color, who were also more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the crisis. For many, this meant facing financial insecurity, stalling their careers and intensifying some of the challenges women already faced at home, such as working double shifts, caring for children and also dealing with remote learning when schools and daycares were shut down.

The study’s findings sound alarm bells for corporate America. As more women leave the workforce and as companies risk losing women leaders, the progress made toward gender and diversity in the workplace may be facing a major setback.

But with challenges also comes opportunities. If companies are interested in building a thriving workforce for the future, then they should consider creating a more flexible, empathetic and diverse culture, especially one that helps retain the women and employees most affected by today’s conditions. So how can businesses go about creating a diverse, adaptable and future-proof workforce? It starts with strategic workforce planning.

Read on to discover three ways workforce planning can help you build a diverse, flexible and future-ready workforce.

1. Analyze Your Current Workforce Capabilities and Needs

Building a workforce that will always be ready to handle the current and future needs of your business entails having the right people in the right jobs at the right time. A workforce planning solution can help you strategically plan, report and analyze beyond the surface to determine your workforce capabilities and needs. With labor planning software that integrates with your HRIS system, you can plan salaries, benefits and taxes by department, employee and position—giving you a clear picture of one of your business's biggest expenditures so you can integrate detailed workforce plans into your operating budget.

With this data, you can then begin to fill gaps in your workforce. For example, do you need to reallocate existing talent or can you identify segments of your workforce that are leaving or have high turnover rates? You can then look to recruit the kind of talent that fits with your company’s plan to grow and accelerate smarter workforce planning that helps you balance talent demand and supply against business priorities.

2. Use Scenario Planning To Plot Future Outcomes

The pandemic taught us that although the future is impossible to predict, businesses should always be prepared for change. Scenario planning can help you challenge your business plans, get clarity on your best path forward and stay ahead of change. For instance, in today’s climate, do you need to change your strategies around flexible work arrangements in order to retain and attract talent?

Creating scenarios for any possible future outcomes with instant what-if analysis based on real-time actuals and business drivers, means you can analyze the impact of potential changes to revenue, headcount, cash flow and more. You can then share those insights with leaders across the organization to align goals, allocate resources, train employees and encourage cross-functional teamwork in an ever-changing workforce.

3. Foster a Workforce Centered Around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

How can you stop women dropping out of the workforce and create staying power instead? It goes beyond offering a competitive compensation package and creating opportunities for career growth. Putting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the core of your business will help give you a competitive advantage.

According to a recent Glassdoor survey, more than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers (76%) reported that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and jobs. In that same survey, 1 in 3 employees and job seekers (32%) said that they wouldn’t apply to a job at a company where there’s a lack of workforce diversity.

Building diversity, equity and inclusion into your workforce means understanding that DEI goes much deeper than a company’s headcount or policy. It’s more about identifying what makes your talent unique and realizing that you benefit from each other’s strengths and perspectives. It’s also about keeping your workforce engaged by creating the kind of inclusive environment that helps employees thrive at work and advance in their careers. In today’s evolving work environment, this means putting flexibility in the middle of workforce planning and optimizing your teams—on site and remotely.

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Interested in diversity, equity and inclusion?

To find out more on how to build a culture of DEI in your workplace, check out this blog.

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Recruiting and retaining professional women in the workplace, especially those who are considering leaving the workforce due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, entails:

  • Designing competitive compensation and benefits packages
  • Offering flexible work options
  • Helping them manage their work-life balance
  • Focusing on their wellness
  • Providing additional support networks and mentorship opportunities 
  • Assisting them on their unique career journeys as they leave and re-enter the
  • Having both maternity and paternity policies in place
  • Prioritizing career development

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