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This Is A National Emergency For Women. We Need Actions, Not Words

As companies risk losing women in leadership—and future women leaders—and unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity, this is both a national and corporate emergency that needs action, collaboration and leadership.

Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris described the number of women who have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic as a national emergency. She is right, of course; this is a cataclysmic crisis for the economy and society, and we must do better as business leaders, corporations, brands, policy makers and agents for change.

According to the 2021 Retrospective: The Story of Gender Equity From the Past Decade in 10 Trends by Katica Roy, in the U.S., we have set back the aggregate gender pay gap by 22 years and the labor force participation rate by 32 years. “The gender pay gap widened by 5 percentage points as a result of the pandemic. Women now earn 76 cents for every dollar men earn. That drop sets us back 22 years (to 1998 levels) in terms of gender pay equity” and “of the $2 trillion economic stimulus the U.S. government deployed in response to COVID, none of it applied to the gender lens.” Sadly, it will take until the next decade to close the pay gap to 2019 levels. As leaders, it’s not only the right thing to do, but companies that stand forward now for pay equity and, more broadly, intersectional equity can realize up to a 50 percentage point stock price increase. In addition, a recent study by Pipeline Equity found that 80 percent of women say they would leave their companies if they felt a different company offered greater gender equality.

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There are many factors at play as to why women in particular have been negatively impacted by the challenging circumstances of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic as workplaces have been turned upside down. The pandemic has heightened the intense challenges that women already faced as outlined in McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 Report. “Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security. Working mothers have always worked a ‘double shift’—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this possible—including school and childcare—have been upended. Meanwhile, Black and Latinx women already faced more barriers to advancement than most other employees. Today they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black and Latinx community. And the emotional toll of repeated instances of racial violence falls heavily on their shoulders”.

As a result of these dynamics, more than 2.2 million women have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic, and women accounted for 100 percent of the jobs shed by the U.S. economy in December. And now, more than one in four women are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. As companies risk losing women in leadership—and future women leaders—and unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity, this is both a national and corporate emergency that needs action, collaboration and leadership.

Leaders and ‘advocates’ for gender parity need to recognize and act on these challenges—adjust company policies, address biases (conscious or unconscious) based on visibility, oversteer and adjust company work and family leave policies or flexible work arrangements, connect and check-in with the working mothers in your company, create hiring policies and practices that bring women back quickly, create relief packages and stimulus packages for mothers, and reform the childcare industry.

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As we approach March, Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Worth is hosting the Women & Worth: Actions Speak Louder Than Words Summit to discuss and plan how we can use our collective power to achieve a more equal future and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be spotlighting leaders, brands, businesses and policy makers who are already taking action and walking the walk when it comes to intersectional equity and recovery.

Topics being covered will include Audacious Advocates: Finding Them and Creating Them, The Economic Outlook (and Recovery) for Women, How To Be Board Ready, How 2020 Impacted DE&I in the Workplace and Where We Go From Here, Creating Wealth in the Founder Community, The Importance of Investing in Women and Minorities, and much more.

Bringing these topics to life will be an abundance of inspirational speakers, including: professional athletes and Olympic medalists Candace Parker and Hilary Knight, founders and CEOs, Cece Olisa of The Curvy Girls Guide, Lauren Maillian of digitalundivided, Beatrice Dixon of The Honey Pot Company, Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code, Susan McPherson of McPherson Strategies, Vicki Saunders of SheEO, Debra Lee of The Monarchs Collective, and Shelley Zallis of The FQ, as well as world renowned conductor Marin Alsop, along with many others. All will be sharing the experiences that shaped their careers, along with the actions they are taking to promote diverse and inclusive policies at their companies or within their communities.

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Attendees will also hear from Gloria Feldt, and cofounders Jenny Galluzzo and Gina Hadley of The Second Shift, an on-demand talent marketplace that connects businesses with highly skilled female talent, as they discuss solving for the motherhood penalty.

As we use our collective power to take on real, systemic challenges and scale and accelerate impact and true change around intersectional equity, I would love for you to join us and tackle some of these challenges head on. What actions are you taking to help us recover from this national emergency and to help transform workplaces for the future?

The Women & Worth: Actions Speak Louder Than Words Summit is complementary, open to everyone and will be held on Zoom March 2-4. Some sessions have limited space, so register today if you’d like to attend. I hope to see you there.

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