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Is the Impact of the Pandemic on Women Widening the Gender Gap?

March 25, 2021

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Much research has shown that the pandemic has greatly affected women in the workplace.  Many have left the workforce to home school or supervise their children’s online education. New research by Perceptyx shows that the pandemic continues to affect women’s careers at a fast pace.

The research study, “”The Gender Gap Widens: Three Critical Actions Required to Support Women in the Workplace,” reveals the continuing effects of the pandemic on women’s careers.  It’s estimated that women lost more than 5 million jobs in 2020.

“To-date, the damage the pandemic has had on women in the workplace has been significant, and unfortunately our data shows again and again that this effect isn’t declining as we look towards getting back to normal,” said Brett Wells, Ph.D., Director of People Analytics at Perceptyx. “Instead, our research indicates the gender gap will widen even further if the realities organizations face aren’t acknowledged and addressed. Women have fundamentally changed the way they want to work. It’s critical these desires be taken into account as organizations make plans to get their employees back into the office.”

The research highlights three key factors that organizations must address:

  1. Prepare for fewer women in the physical workplace
  2. Take steps to minimize promotion and compensation bias
  3. Lay the groundwork to ensure talented, female workers are retained

Key findings of the research include:

  • Compared to six months ago, 48% of women have become either much less or somewhat less likely to want to return to the physical workplace full-time.
  • Roughly 24% of both women and men would prefer to adopt a hybrid working arrangement after COVID-19. Men, however, intend to spend 3-4 days per week in the physical workplace, whereas women intend to spend only 2-3 days per week.
  • While the same number of men and women hope to return to the workplace full-time post-pandemic (35%), pre-pandemic, 62% of women were in a physical workplace full-time, compared with 57% of men, indicating a greater drop-off for women.

Organizations can help to address these issues:

  • Out of sight cannot mean out of mind. Perceived impacts are already taking hold for those working remotely; 40% have seen a decline when it comes to the frequency of performance reviews, recognition, promotions, and raises.
  • Recognize that different factors motivate women and men to stay or leave their current employers. In an earlier study of more than 750,000 employees across more than 100 global enterprises, Perceptyx found that women are most driven to leave an organization when they aren’t empowered to make their own decisions about how to best accomplish their work.
  • Offer hybrid work options. Open positions that are posted as physical-workspace-only will likely receive fewer female applicants post-pandemic, and the natural result will be fewer women in the workplace.
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