June 10, 2021

Losing Talent? It’s Not Just the Pandemic.

Two weeks ago, we launched a survey requesting input on gender equity issues as part of ZA’s continuing work in Women in Leadership. Our preliminary findings reveal that work-life balance is one of the most prominent topics of concern in our field, and in fact is of critical importance nationwide, made even more so by the pandemic.

What we mean by work-life balance isn’t the traditional “how do we help women balance the demands of being superwomen?” We’re now in a different place. Due to the challenges we’re currently facing, women are leaving the workforce in droves because it’s the only way they can guarantee their kids are okay. This is really about how our society can support women and families in ways that enable them to work outside the home while ensuring that their kids/family are well cared for. While this issue affects the entire family–and thus not just women–it’s most vivid when we look at women’s employment in the U.S. workforce. And it particularly impacts women of color as it has especially magnified the disproportionate challenges facing Black and Latina women.

We encourage you to read McKinsey’s June 3rd, 2021 article “What we lose when we lose women in the workforce” (click on the article title to view) which relates to this theme and offers solutions to help close the gender equity workforce gap. Highlights include:

  1. Establish universal childcare and maternity leave laws. The U.S. ranks 37th out of 39 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries for spending on early-childhood education and care. 2.3 million women left the U.S. workforce in 2020 to care for their families, in part due to the costs of childcare, which now costs up to 25 percent of a two-parent family’s income and up to 50 percent of a single-parent family’s income. 

  2. Alter traditional views within culture, race, and diversity related to caring for family and home. Although there have been positive shifts over the years related to sex roles for both childcare and house care, the pandemic is erasing many of these shifts and is even headed in a negative direction. Prior to the pandemic, McKinsey research found that Hispanic and Latina women spent 2.7 times as much time as their male counterparts caring for household members, including children. Hispanic and Latina women are also twice as likely as their male counterparts to perform housework. 

  3. Offer job training for our lower-SES (socioeconomic status) women. When women leave the workforce and then re-enter, they risk re-entering at a lower level with lesser pay than if they hadn’t taken a break and remained on the same trajectory. Retooling and retraining them is an investment that needs to be made. Women who cut back their paid-work hours to accommodate family responsibility risk losing wages, benefits, and opportunities for advancement, not to mention sleep.

We must develop support systems for those who identify as women both on the work front and the social/home front. At Zoo Advisors, we’re working for change–supporting advancement opportunities for women, creating networking opportunities, and planning even more ambitious programs for the future.

Your input is essential to our work. If you haven’t yet had a chance to voice your input on gender equity issues, please complete this quick survey now by clicking here. Thank you.

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