Last year, the number of women in the workforce briefly overtook the number of men. Then the pandemic happened.
In September 2020, 865,000 women left the workforce – four times more than men. Many of them don’t plan to return.
It’s easy to understand the reasons they left. Women still deal more with childcare, virtual school, housework, cooking, and elder care than their male counterparts do. Without the support of schools and other services, many women simply couldn’t keep up with their home responsibilities and a paying job, too.
“The problem is that right now a lot of women don’t really have choices, right?” Martha Gimbel, a labor economist at the nonprofit initiative Schmidt Futures, said in an NPR interview. “They can’t send their kids to school. Someone has to supervise the learning. Someone has to deal with the cooking. Someone has to deal with the cleaning, and it’s falling onto them. And so they can’t make choices that they want to make because they’re being restricted in all these ways.”
The larger problem is that a thriving economy depends on a large, productive workforce. Without women, economic growth is at risk – putting everyone at risk of economic harm. If women stay home, many families lose half of their income and half their buying power.
Staying at home also puts the financial stability of women at risk. An Institute for Women’s Policy Research report shows that an employment gap of just one year translates to a 39 percent decrease in a woman’s annual earnings. And it doesn’t stop at one single decrease. The decrease compounds in the following years.
Losing women in the workforce also puts associations and non-profit organizations at risk. According to Nonprofit Quarterly, women make up 73 percent of the American non-profit workforce. The long-term ramifications of losing so many women in the workforce could dramatically affect the non-profit and association industries.
That leads to a question for your association or non-profit. How can you help reverse the trend and help your experienced women staff members manage work and home?
We think this is a fundamental culture question, and it may be time for an honest assessment of where your association is today. The answer to women leaving the workforce won’t be just developing new programs for working mothers, although developing them can’t hurt. The solution, instead, will center on the deeper question of how an association values the women who work for it.
Now might be a great time to start asking questions. Your culture will determine how you proceed. We define culture as the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and “stuff” that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued inside your organization. It might be time to build a culture that better recognizes the challenges women face today in the workforce. In order to change your culture, however, you need to know where you are.
Our culture assessment captures what it’s like to work at your organization – the patterns, the experiences, even the contradictions inherent in how you do things. The assessment takes your employees 15 minutes to complete, and the results come back in just a few days. The platform allows you to slice and dice the data any way you’d like – and specifically measures how men and women experience your culture. Are they more aligned or are they different? Is your workplace welcoming to women? Find out today – before you run the risk of losing your best people.