There are many predictions of what trends will occur during and post-COVID. One trend hits home in many ways: lack of women in the workforce.
When schools stopped in-person instruction and public child care largely ceased in March 2020, at least one parent had to remain home to cover child care and education.
In a majority of cases, it was a woman.
American Progress found that four times the number of women left the workforce in the US compared to men in September 2020. The most commonly stated reason? Lack of child care and lessened to no school supervision (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2020/10/30/492582/covid-19-sent-womens-workforce-progress-backward/).
In fact, American Progress estimates the US economy will take a hit to the tune of over $60 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity from women leaving the workforce to cover child care needs.
If child care is not addressed on an intentional and aggressive level, the US economy will struggle to create and maintain growth.
COVID-19 has brought much more than a virus; it has created a pandemic of missing employees in the workforce, largely women, who now need to cover child care needs.
While a larger scale attempt to generate child care options must occur, each leader can play their own part to understand how they can support those taking on child care in addition to their job.
Authentic leaders look for ways they can be with their team in all aspects of this rampant scourge.
Here are some basic steps to support employees in your sphere of influence:
Ask questions: You can’t help fix something you don’t know is a problem. Send an anonymous questionnaire, have one-on-one conversations, and pay attention to trends with your workers who have dependent children. A word of caution, being familiar with HR guidelines is a good idea so become informed on appropriate questions to ask and availability of resources.
Protect time away from the office: Don’t expect overtime or work outside of office hours. Support time to be a parent by protecting off hours so they can be spent with family.
Flex time: If possible, allow for flexible work hours to give parents opportunity to select times to work around their children’s schedule. If this cannot be accommodated due to industry standards (e.g., customer service hours), keeping an open and honest conversation is the best gift leaders can give their employees.