Candidate Experience Recruitment Marketing

Navigating the Shecession: Bringing Women Back to Work

Navigating the Shecession: Bringing Women Back to Work
Profile photo of Lori Sylvia
Written by Lori Sylvia

The pandemic has caused a disproportionate number of women to leave the workforce. Now, talent communities for women are stepping up to help women find jobs by working with employers to create targeted recruiting strategies and career programs to end the “Shecession”.

Navigating the Shecession: Bringing Women Back to Work
5 (100%) 13 votes

A few weeks ago, a startling article from the New York Times showed that almost 1 million mothers have left the workforce. Before the pandemic, more women were employed than men for the first time ever. Today, we’re back down to 1980s levels of women in the labor force.

These grim statistics have caused some people to begin to refer to the current recession as the Shecession (short for “she-recession”) because of the unequal impact it has had on women. Even with economic stimulus, there’s been very little financial or social support for working mothers and women who have left the workforce to become full-time caregivers over the past year or whose jobs in service industries have been disproportionately affected.

But hope is not lost! Talent communities for women are stepping up to help them find jobs and re-enter the workforce, and are providing valuable resources for employers that want to attract women candidates and help them progress in their careers.

We reached out to several organizations committed to doing just that and asked them the following 2 questions:

  1. What support is your community providing to help women return to the workforce and rebuild their careers?
  2. What can employers do to help bring women back to the workforce post-pandemic?

In this blog post, we share their unique perspectives and insights on navigating the Shecession, and their advice for what employers can do to help women return to work post-pandemic and unlock the potential of women professionals. Let’s take a look.

What Employers Can Do to Help Women Return to Work Post-Pandemic

Stacey Delo, CEO, Après Group

Stacey Delo

Stacey Delo, CEO, Après Group

About Apres:
Après connects women returning to work after career breaks or navigating career and motherhood with resources and tools, plus a boutique job board. Stacey and her cofounder Jennifer Gefsky wrote the book “Your Turn: Careers, Kids and Comebacks—A Working Mother’s Guide”, and they regularly speak on the topic with employers.

Rally: What support is your community providing to help women return to the workforce and rebuild their careers?

Stacey: When the pandemic began, Après kicked into high gear to support women in job search mode. Returning to work after a career break is already a challenge and the reduction in hiring caused by the pandemic made this even worse.

We began hosting weekly webinars to help women use their time strategically to get their resume and LinkedIn profiles in shape, work on their elevator pitch and hone in on the expertise they bring to the table. There’s so much talent sitting on the sidelines right now and it’s our job to help them showcase their value.

Rally: What can employers do to help bring women back to the workforce post-pandemic?

Stacey: In general, employers need to embrace the years that women devote to caregiving — and even more so post-pandemic. That means recognizing the value of caregiving, the challenges and learnings that come from it and the transferable skills that women with resume gaps bring to the table. They’ll also need to embrace flexible work options and make this a permanent perk going forward.

Rally note: The Après team put together a guide for how employers can open up workplaces to support women post-pandemic.

Romy Newman, President & Co-founder, Fairygodboss

Romy Newman, President & Co-founder, Fairygodboss

Romy Newman, President & Co-founder, Fairygodboss

About Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss is the largest career community for women and the place where millions of women go to find their next job. Through their community, job board, employee reviews, curated content and hiring events, they work to improve the workplace through greater transparency.

Rally: What support is your community providing to help women return to the workforce and rebuild their careers?

Romy: In our mission to elevate women at work at Fairygodboss, we understand that women face unique challenges in the workplace. Especially among those who are returning to the workplace, we often see imposter syndrome and a confidence gap. Our honest and supportive community provides women with a place to share their challenges and triumphs and to lift each other up.

Recently, we piloted a Job Search Bootcamp program where my co-founder and I personally mentor women who lost their jobs during the pandemic. We’re meeting with these women weekly to give them feedback and advice on every aspect of their job search and application process in hopes of helping them land their next role.

We also understand that employers play a role in hiring and supporting women as well. That’s why we partner with major U.S. corporations to help them understand women job seekers, create content that attracts them and host events to connect employers with ambitious, career-focused women. We also partner with organizations by speaking at Employee Resources Group (ERG) events to inspire women and engage employee networks to elevate women at work internally.

Rally: What can employers do to help bring women back to the workforce post-pandemic?

Romy: A leading UK insurance provider, Zurich, tested out using gender neutral language, as well as adding the company’s flexible work offerings, to 80% of their job descriptions. What they found was incredible — in just 1 year, Zurich doubled applications from women, increased women hires in leadership roles by 12.5% and achieved gender parity among new hires in leadership!

However, the Zurich study isn’t unique. Two separate studies by Fairygodboss showed the disconnect between how women job seekers evaluate potential positions and what organizations are doing to attract them.

In our report, How 2020 Changed the Job Search Landscape, Fairygodboss surveyed 1,000 job seekers and found that flexible and remote work options were the second most important consideration for both women and men when considering a new employer — just behind financial benefits! But, our Diversity Hiring in 2021 Survey found that only 56% of organizations are leveraging gender neutral language in job descriptions and only 26% are publishing flexible work offerings.

As women take on more responsibilities than ever and struggle with stress and burnout, it’s clear that organizations will need to follow up on commitments to diversity with action to attract, hire and retain women at work.

Rally note: if you’re interested in learning more about creating gender neutral job descriptions, check out our blog post, The Business Case for Removing Gender Bias From Job Ads.

Ursula Mead, Founder & CEO, InHerSight

Ursula Mead, Founder & CEO, InHerSight

Ursula Mead, Founder & CEO, InHerSight

About InHerSight
InHerSight believes in the power of data to improve the workplace. They built a completely anonymous platform to measure how well companies support women employees in order to help women find and improve companies where they can achieve their goals.

Rally: What support is your community providing to help women return to the workforce and rebuild their careers?

Ursula: Women leave the workforce for a variety of reasons; but as we know, increased caregiving responsibilities have been the main contributor during the pandemic. In an ideal world, that work wouldn’t fall solely on women, but we’re not living in an ideal world. Company reviews on our platform can help women find an organization that supports their need for better work-life balance, with benefits like flexible work hours and remote work and other types of caregiver support.

With insights into more than 150,000 employers, we’re an incredibly valuable and unique resource for women who have distinct needs and goals, or “must-haves” at work, as we call them at InHerSight. We arm women with the information they need to find an opportunity at a company where they can thrive.

Beyond data, we provide super relevant and timely content to help women navigate interviews, work, discrimination and more. During the height of the pandemic, we’ve focused on crucial areas such as virtual interviews, mental health, whether employers can require vaccinations, being a manager during COVID, bereavement leave and other timely topics. And to support working women, we’ve also expanded our resources for employers to help them build more supportive cultures and policies.

Rally: What can employers do to help bring women back to the workforce post-pandemic?

Ursula: 79% of women tell us they want to continue to work remotely post-pandemic. That kind of resounding response indicates a disconnect between how we were working and how we should work in the future. To recruit and retain women, employers will need to take a hard look at the remote and flexible work benefits they provide. Those metrics have always been high on women’s priority lists, but the pandemic has exacerbated this need.

I also think it’s important that employers create a clear vision for how they’ll support women and put that plan in front of women job seekers. Many organizations have return-to-work programs, for example, but if women don’t know they exist, how can they benefit from them? Beyond saying “we think hiring women is important,” clearly communicating the programs you have in place, how women at your organization benefit from them and how you plan to evolve them as new needs arise will be critical to attracting and retaining more women in the workplace.

Tami Forman, CEO, Path Forward

Tami Forman, CEO, Path Forward

Tami Forman, CEO, Path Forward

About Path Forward
Path Forward is a nonprofit organization giving men and women the opportunity to get back into a professional career with mid-career internships (also known as “returnships”) while giving companies access to a diverse, untapped talent force. They’ve worked with over 80 companies to create these programs, with more than 80% of participants hired by the companies where they completed their returnships.

Rally: What support is your community providing to help women return to the workforce and rebuild their careers?

Tami: Path Forward is a nonprofit organization that is laser focused on creating opportunities for caregivers to return to their professional careers. We do this by working with employers to launch “returnship” programs specifically geared to that goal. We’ve worked with more than 80 major employers including Walmart, Amazon, SAP, Allstate and many more. We also run webinars and publish written content to advise those looking to return on how to update their resume, practice for interviews, evaluate reskilling options and more.

Rally: What can employers do to help bring women back to the workforce post-pandemic?

Tami: Create more returnships! I mean, I have to say that, right? But seriously, the actual answer is “hire more women! Hire more moms! Hire people even if they’ve been out of the workforce!” We believe our program is a great way for companies to do all of those things, and especially to re-employ people who’ve been forced out of the labor market to take on caregiving responsibilities, and we work hard to make sure our employers are successful in doing so.

Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO & Co-founder, iRelaunch

Carol Fishman

Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO & Co-founder, iRelaunch

About iRelaunch
iRelaunch, the pioneering company in the career reentry space, produces the iRelaunch Return to Work Conferences, iRelaunch Employer Events and works with over 100 global companies on return to work initiatives of all kinds, through which thousands of relaunchers have resumed careers after career breaks of one to over 20 years.

Rally: What support is your community providing to help women return to the workforce and rebuild their careers?

Carol: At iRelaunch, we have a community of over 86,000 professionals who are returning to work after career breaks from one to over 20 years. We call them “relaunchers.” Roughly 90% of them are women. Career breaks are primarily for childcare and eldercare reasons, but also for pursuing a personal interest, a health issue, an expat experience and “unretiring.” Returning to work can be precipitated by kids reaching a certain age, a health issue resolving, an expat experience ending, divorce, death or disability of a spouse or partner or financial needs.

Our premise is that people take career breaks for reasons that have nothing to do with their work performance, and that relaunchers are a high caliber talent pool; educated, with great work experience, a stable life stage, mature perspective and an energy and excitement about returning to work because they have been away from it for so long.

To support our community, we provide many resources, such as our Scripts and Dialogues series, to know “what to say” and “what to write” in all different relaunch situations. Another resource is our five stage, 30 step iRelaunch Return to Work Roadmap.

Rally: What can employers do to help bring women back to the workforce post-pandemic?

Carol: First, employers should carefully track their high performing employees who leave to go on career break and stay in touch with them until they are ready to return. Understand that those who leave during the pandemic today are tomorrow’s relaunchers.

Second, employer return to work programs are excellent models for reintegrating those who have been out of the workforce and are ready to return. Employers should try to expand these programs and get them to scale. Most of them run in cohorts. The relauncher cohort members get very close and support each other both personally and professionally. More discussion on this topic is in my HBR article on the “power of the cohort in career reentry programming.”

Employers could expand their return to work programs by relaxing the two year career break eligibility requirement for participation. They could consider people who are “underemployed” as well as “pandemic-unemployed.”

Additionally, employers can continue the flexible, work from home arrangements that the pandemic brought on, and determine how many jobs can remain “not location-specific.”

Once relaunchers are back on the job, employers can encourage managers to check in with their relaunched employees on a regular basis and designate special events for them to get to know their teams and other people within the organization. These check-ins also provide the opportunity to debrief after meetings and explain terminology or concepts, as the virtual setting does not provide the opportunity to walk out of a meeting together to ask these questions casually.

A silver lining that’s come out the pandemic is that work from home relaunches in all-virtual environments are gentler and more gradual than if the relauncher had to go into the office right from the start. This has been a blessing for relaunchers with school age children, as mom has relaunched her career but is still at home, and months later will take the second step of going into the office.

—————

Talent communities like these have an important role to play in bringing women back to the workforce post-pandemic. They’re a fantastic resource for employers that are looking to address this problem head-on by providing targeted talent acquisition strategies as well as access to a pool of career-focused women.

I want to give a huge thank you to our contributors for sharing their knowledge and resources with the Rally community! If your organization is working to support women returning to work, contact us to share your insights with our community.

Navigating the Shecession: Bringing Women Back to Work
5 (100%) 13 votes

About the Author

Profile photo of Lori Sylvia

Lori Sylvia

Recruitment Marketing evangelist and community builder. Founder of Rally.

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