Working women less optimistic about career prospects due to COVID-19: Report

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Heightened workloads and household responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic are driving deep dissatisfaction among many women in the workforce, according to a new report released on Monday from Deloitte Global. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said their workload increased since the pandemic crisis broke.

“Women @ Work: A global outlook,” found that these increased responsibilities are having devastating effects on working women with 51 percent less optimistic about their career prospects today. The survey reported a 35-point drop in mental health and a 29-point drop in motivation at work compared to before the pandemic.

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Representing the views of 5,000 women across 10 countries, the research revealed a stark reality for women in the workplace: gender equality has regressed during the pandemic, stifling years of slow, but steady progress. Increased responsibilities at work and at home during the pandemic, coupled with non-inclusive workplace cultures, have resulted in diminishing job satisfaction and employer loyalty for women.

“The last year has been a ‘perfect storm’ for many women facing increased workloads and greater responsibilities at home, a blurring of the boundaries between the two, and continued experiences of non-inclusive behaviors at work,” said Rana Ghandour Salhab, People and Purpose Partner at Deloitte Middle East.

“While the adverse impact on women’s wellbeing, motivation, and engagement is obvious, our research also shows that some employers are getting it right: The women who work for these organizations are more engaged, productive, and satisfied with their careers. As we start to rebuild workplaces for the future, we have a golden opportunity to get gender equality and inclusion right and avoid setting back years of progress.”

Unhappy housewife. (Stock image)
Unhappy housewife. (Stock image)

Declining wellbeing as women shoulder responsibility

Women are taking on more responsibilities managing household and caregiving tasks, and 59 percent said they’re spending more time on domestic tasks. Thirty-five percent are spending more time caring for children, and 24 percent cite more time caring for dependents other than children.

Women’s wellbeing has fallen significantly since the pandemic: only one third of women consider their mental wellbeing today to be “good” or “extremely good,” compared to 68 percent prior to the pandemic.

Only 22 percent of women believe their employers have helped them establish clear boundaries between work, and personal time. Most women also feel like they have to be “always on” at work, and 63 percent feel that their employers evaluate them based on the amount of time they spend online versus the quality of their work.

Not only are many women questioning their current career prospects, but nearly a quarter are also considering leaving the workforce altogether.

Meeting the needs of gender equality

While the past year has undoubtedly been challenging for women, there are a group of employers who have doubled down on building inclusive cultures and supporting women’s careers. “Gender equality leaders,” representing the employers of roughly 4 percent of respondents, have created more inclusive and trusting cultures where women feel they are better supported.

There are several actions organizations can take now to address this critical issue, including prioritizing work/life balance and flexible working options that extend beyond workplace policies and are entrenched in the company culture; empowering women to succeed in life outside of work to enable success at work; and offering fulfilling development opportunities that build skills and expertise.

“Our survey respondents are clear about what needs to be done to reverse the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on working women,” said Maya Rafii, Diversity & Inclusion Leader from Deloitte Middle East.

“As organizations look to rebuild their workplaces, those that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in their policies and culture and provide tangible support for the women in their workforces will be more resilient against future disruptions.”

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