According to the World Economic Forum, the impact of the global pandemic has increased the global gender gap from 99 years to 135 years. That’s a whole generation.
What’s more, in the US, 2.5 million women have left the workforce since the pandemic, compared to only 1.8 million men. Vice President, Kamala Harris, has called the impact of Covid-19 on the female workforce a “national emergency”.
These figures are daunting, to say the least. But with new research looking at the changing preferences around work in general, now is the time to rethink old structures and drive more positive change to overturn these statistics.
For example, The University of Southampton's recent study found that 73% of employees would now prefer to work from home some of the time. Similarly, EY’s recent survey found that 67% of UK employees would prefer hybrid working, particularly among millennials.
This kind of research provides critical insight into how we can better retain talent—particularly among women. If rigid structures are no longer preferable, companies need to adjust to meet these new needs or face a significant dip in employees.
In our latest webinar, Seizing the New Opportunity for Diversity, our speakers discuss what can be done to counteract this drop in workplace diversity and how we might build a more inclusive future.
Here are the key learnings, with commentary from:
Dimple Mistry, HR Regional Head (Europe), GIC
Lucy Heintz, Partner at Actis
Pamela Brent, Senior Associate at WovenLight
Is the influx of remote working having a positive or negative impact on gender inclusivity in the workplace?
As you might expect, the short answer to this question is: both. With differing opportunities and barriers for individuals, it’s hard to agree on a blanket argument for either. As Lucy explains further, “Flexibility has long been cited as a key change that would enable women to remain in career roles. However, research has shown that [during the pandemic] more women have taken on caring and household duties. The risk here is that women then become more invisible when away from the office.” She continues to share that,
“I’ve worked remotely for eighteen years, and I experienced that invisibility—feeling that I needed to work much harder in terms of brand, image and exposure.”
Should companies be implementing specific policies to ensure gender diversity in the modern working environment?
It’s logical that, given the global shift in ways of working as a result of the pandemic, companies should be reviewing their policies to ensure they are aligned with new structures and requirements. This presents us with yet another pivotal moment to review our diversity policies and take a more detailed look into any outdated activity, as Dimple goes on to explain, “Now is the time to go through those policies with a fine-tooth comb to see if there is any indirect negative or exclusionary practices or language. We should look at our workforce and ask ourselves how we can leverage on and adjust policies to encourage better inclusion. Finally, we also need to be think about intersectionality – where a layering of different characteristics can present additional barriers and challenges… how do you ensure your policies work for everyone?”
What ideas and initiatives have a long-term opportunity for successful inclusivity?
With hybrid working set to remain in place at most companies well into the future, what ongoing changes can we implement that will stand the test of time, but also bring about a more appealing environment for marginalised genders? For Pamela’s team, one answer is in the diversification of contracts: “One thing which we are doing differently is hiring more part-time roles across our team. It’s extremely rare to have that kind of flexibility across teams, and to a certain extent it will be an experiment in how we deal with it, but it’s something we’re willing to pursue and challenge ourselves to adapt to in order to make sure we are reaching the people who want those roles. After all, now is an exciting time to be trying out different approaches.”
To explore the opportunity for diversity in your workplace in more detail, watch the full webinar here.
For further information about Altus Partners’ Diversity & Inclusion practice, please contact Milly at Camilla@altus-partners.com.