International women’s day (IWD) and women’s history month marks a time of reflection and introspection. It is a reminder of where we are and the progress we still need to make. This year, the state of gender equality must be contextualized by the global health pandemic. Studies show progress towards gender equity may have stalled, if not regressed, due to the pandemic. Let’s embrace this year’s IWD motto and #choosetochallenge the status-quo so that we head into an economic recovery that is inclusive of women and girls and seeks to build a more equitable society.
Prior to COVID-19, the World Economic Forum predicted it would take 257 years to close the global, gender-economic gap. We now need to consider that COVID-19 may have disproportionately impacted women, likely adding years to an already lengthy number. Between August 2020 and September 2020, The National Women’s Law Center reported over 1.1 million people left the US workforce. Of those 1.1 million, 80% were women. The loss of women from the workforce not only negatively impacts progress towards achieving gender equity but also hurts economic growth.
So, the question is: what can we do to challenge damaging gender trends arising from COVID-19 that may have hurt our progress towards gender equity in the workplace and at home?
In the workplace – employers can reevaluate the framework that employees are more productive from the office and instead, potentially consider a hybrid workplace model. A recent Gartner study found that men are more likely to return to work from the office whereas women are more likely to elect to work remotely. At the same time, the study shows that 64% of managers believe that employees who work from the office will be higher performers compared to those working remotely. This translates to in-person workers being more likely to get a raise or promotion than those working from home. If men are opting to work from the office and managers have a bias to in-person workers, we may see promotions that are skewed towards male employees ultimately increasing the gender wage gap and lack of representation of women in leadership roles.
What can you do?
As investors, we can put our dollars where our values are. To name a few examples, investors can choose to invest in companies that have gender-diverse leadership on their boards. Companies that not only provide maternity and paternity leave but also foster a culture that encourages employees to take their full leave. Essentially, we can be intentional in our investment decisions by applying a gender lens to our investment strategies.
As individuals, we can choose to sponsor women to help them navigate success in the workplace and create pipelines to leadership positions. We can keep women in the workplace by challenging traditional social norms around the division of labor at home. In 2021, women may have the rights, but social norms may undermine the policies.
Join us at BSW by choosing to challenge gender inequality and celebrate women and girls’ achievements. Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month!