Chances are, in the last year, you’ve parted company with more female workers than their male counterparts. It’s not a coincidence. Studies show that women in the workforce have been more deeply impacted by COVID-19 than men. Unfortunately, this may not only negatively impact their earnings and futures, but your business and the economy at large. Proactive employers are not only aware of this, but are taking steps to turn things around.
According to a study by the National Women’s Law Center, more than 860,000 women left the workforce due to COVID as of September 2020, compared to 200,000 men. The unemployment rate for women has more than doubled since the pandemic. Factor in the troubling fact that households earning less than $30,000 annually have double the unemployment rates of higher-income households, and it’s clear that female hourly workers are hurting.
Typically, recessions hit men’s employment faster and harder, as male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction are the first to slow down. However, COVID-19 shutdowns battered industries dominated by female hourly workers—i.e., the service and hospitality sectors. In addition, schools and daycares closed, and family and friends who might otherwise provide childcare often couldn’t fill the breach due to COVID, forcing women to stay home for child care.
As of now, many schools remain at least partially closed to in-person learning, as do many daycare facilities. This creates an ongoing challenge for the one in four working women with a child younger than 14 at home—and their employers.
Implications for Employers
Female workforce participation is now at 57%, its lowest point since 1988. In addition to setting half the workforce back a generation, an inclusive, equitable economy benefits everyone, including employers.
Research proves that diversity makes companies more profitable. A Peterson Institute for International Economics study of 22,000 global firms found that, when companies moved from zero female C-level executives to a 30% female share, profitability increased 15%. Other studies have arrived at similar findings.
Admittedly, not too many female hourly workers make it to the C-suite. But women at every level of the workforce bring different skills, perspectives and ideas to the table—just as workers of varying ethnicities, generations and races do—sparking innovation and progress.
Furthermore, according to a McKinsey’s study, at the current rate, global GDP growth may be $1 trillion lower by 2030 than it would be if women’s unemployment tracked with men’s. Conversely, acting now to advance gender equality may add $13 trillion to the global GDP by 2030.
How to Support Your Female Hourly Workers
There are a number of steps employers can take to attract, keep, and bring back their female hourly workers, if they are willing to make some changes.
- Acknowledge the Impact of COVID on Your Workforce
We’ve all found our focus and productivity negatively impacted by the pandemic—how could it be otherwise?—yet studies find that less than one-third of employers have adjusted their performance review criteria accordingly. It may seem counterintuitive, but resetting goals so workers don’t feel overwhelmed may in fact improve productivity.
- Consider More Part-time and Job-Sharing Positions
Because childcare is such a red-hot issue for working mothers, offering jobs with less-rigorous hours may allow more women to work. As more Americans receive COVID vaccines and schools reopen, more women will return to full-time roles, but part-time positions are always popular with working moms.
- Adopt More Flexible Scheduling Practices
Rethink your approach to absenteeism in the age of COVID. Some of it is unavoidable, and penalizing workers doesn’t always help. Consider adopting a more flexible scheduling program that allows workers to swap shifts and bid on open ones, benefiting both employers and workers.
- Focus on Engaging Hourly Workers
Practice inclusion. Make sure your hourly workers feel like part of the team and recognize their contributions. Workers who feel valued are more likely to make an effort to stay than those who feel invisible and replaceable.
- Encourage Managers to Connect with their People
Managers often hold the key to worker happiness; yours should be having meaningful conversations with their reports. For example, simply asking “What do you need from me to do a better job” or “Is your work schedule working out for you?” can surface and solve problems before they escalate into performance or turnover issues.
- Make Sure Workers Know their Benefits
You may have expanded your support programs during COVID-19, but don’t take for granted that your workforce knows this. Studies find that, while most employers offer Employer Assistance Programs, only half of employees are aware of them. Regularly remind workers about available benefits and resources. And if there is a way to expand childcare assistance—say, by partnering with local day care centers—that would be well worth exploring.
Enlist Your HCM System to Help
Because EPAY’s HCM Solution was designed for employers with an hourly workforce, it offers unique tools and features that can help you support and stay connected to your hourly workers regardless of their shifts, schedules and locations.
From a flexible time and labor program that handles all conceivable hours…to a workforce-friendly scheduling program with bidding and swapping…to an online portal that provides access to benefits, PTO, training resources and more, it can help you support the women in your workforce. And everyone else, too.