April 22, 2021 | Diversity & Inclusion, What's Hot | 3 min read

It's time to take off our rose-colored glasses

It's been more than a year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. While this is not an anniversary to be celebrated, it is one to be commemorated as we look back at the challenges we have faced, and the lessons we have learned. One of the biggest lessons? We are not all in the same "boat." Some of us are steering towards safe harbor. Some of us are staying afloat. But some have been utterly shipwrecked. And many of those are women.

Coined the Pink Pandemic, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women across all facets of their lives, both personal and professional. We’ve all seen "pandemic lifestyle" social media posts. But, for every woman at home with the kids baking cookies, there are multitudes wondering how to stretch lunch into dinner. And let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with deciding to stay home for your family. For some women, it’s the right choice.

But what happens if you have no choice?

Frankly, we have lost decades of hard-won ground

In December of 2019, shortly before the pandemic, women held slightly more jobs in the U.S. than men for the first time in ten years. Now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2.4 million women have exited the workforce since last February, compared with fewer than 1.8 million men. In our new Skillsoft 360 Report, Forging New Pathways for Women's Careers: A Pink Pandemic Recovery Plan we discuss the immediate negative impact of these numbers:

  • Out-of-work women have less or no income.
  • They lose critical employment benefits, like health insurance.
  • They accrue exponentially less retirement savings.
  • Organizations lose the myriad benefits of an equitable workforce.

Of even more concern are the possible long-term effects. If we don't address the worsening gender gap head-on, women will likely lose the ground they’ve gained in corporate hierarchies, falling even farther behind men in terms of wealth accumulation and the freedom that can afford. Women of color and immigrants have been especially hard-hit. These women hold many of the jobs that have been threatened or eliminated, such as those in retail, food service, and caregiving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has also found that the 2020 unemployment rate for Black women was highest among all working women.

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We all share the problem — and build solutions together

It’s not lost on me that I am writing about this from a place of privilege; I have a job I love and I'm able to work from home. And I'm surrounded daily by an amazing team of individuals who are driving this business forward. It just so happens that many of them are female.

But, around the world, many livelihoods are being stripped away. So, we’re making the commitment to not only bear witness, but to act. My Skillsoft colleague Rosie Cairnes says, “You have to have the courage of your convictions, to use your voice for change. Your voice is powerful. Don’t compromise ... and do have the courage to act.”

Whether women or allies, here are a few things leaders can do to help drive meaningful change:

  • Review employee benefits and enhance areas most important to women.
  • Invest in the development and nourishment of a diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.
  • Provide training and tools for women to grow competencies for the most in-demand opportunities.
  • Direct more resources to hiring, developing, and advancing women in the workplace.

I believe meaningful change begins at our own (home office) door. Patronize and promote women-owned businesses. Mentor new recruits and offer networking opportunities. Reach out to other women in your community and let them know they are not alone. Volunteer your time and offer help when you can.

We are not all in the same boat. But, as women, we will sink or swim together. Let's reach that safe harbor.

For more insights on the Pink Pandemic — and more ways we can all improve things for ourselves, our colleagues, and our company — join me as I give the keynote address on this topic at the eWOW 2021 Virtual Summit on Saturday, April 24.

And don’t forget to download Forging New Pathways for Women's Careers: A Pink Pandemic Recovery Plan now.