COVID-19 puts women’s careers on hold

COVID-19 is having a detrimental impact on women’s careers, according to new research from LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

The study of 20,000+ working professionals from around the world, unveiled on International Women’s Day 2021, finds that nearly half of women say their career has been set back or put on hold due to the global pandemic.

Two in five women globally have left or considered leaving the workforce during the pandemic, and over a quarter say their employer has offered no support. Furthermore, LinkedIn data finds that on average women globally applied to 11% fewer jobs than men last year, and that women’s hiring has proven to be more vulnerable.

Women in the UK and Italy have been worst hit in Europe

The research finds that almost half of women in the UK and Italy believe their careers have been set back or put on hold due to the pandemic, compared to 34% in France and 38% in Germany. Furthermore, 44% of women globally say they have taken on more domestic responsibilities than their partner during the pandemic. This was experienced most by women in Brazil and India where women have taken on caring responsibilities not only for their children, but also for elderly and vulnerable parents and family members.

Women are leaving the workforce due the impact of COVID-19

The increasing pressures on women at work and at home is making many reconsider their options. The research finds that Indian (66%), American (43%) and British (41%) women were most likely to have left or considered leaving the workforce – temporarily or permanently. In the UK, stress (57%), too much responsibility at home and work (33%), and lack of childcare (14%) were the top reasons cited.

Women applying to fewer jobs than men

According to LinkedIn’s data, on average women globally applied to 11% fewer jobs compared to men last year. The countries that saw the biggest gap in women applying for roles were the U.S. (16%), Mexico (15%), Germany (13%), Australia and France (11%). In the UK, women applied to 4% fewer jobs than men.

Women say employers can do more to support them

More than half of women in Japan say their employer has provided no support during the pandemic. The UK fared better in comparison to other European countries, with almost a third (30%) of women surveyed agreeing their employer had provided mental health support and training, and another 35% say they have been offered flexible working during this time.

Janine Chamberlin, Senior Director at LinkedIn, said: “It’s clear that COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on women’s careers. Women have been more adversely affected by disruptions to the retail, travel and leisure industries which employ a relatively greater share of women and often aren’t remote-ready roles. Our data also clearly shows women are applying to fewer roles and are also taking on a disproportionate share of care responsibilities. 

Companies can play a major part in ensuring that we get back on track by implementing progressive workplace policies to offer greater flexibility to care givers, carefully considering the language of jobs adverts and employer branding to encourage female applicants, and expanding talent pools to entice a broader spectrum of talent and skills, can make a big difference when it comes to hiring more women into the workplace.”

Improving workplace gender equality

Companies can help improve workplace gender equality by:

  1. Implementing progressive workplace policies to enable greater flexibility – The future of work will undoubtedly be more flexible. Research from LinkedIn finds more than three-quarters (76%) of C-level executives in the UK trust their employees to work productively from home since the onset of COVID-19. Furthermore, 74% of women in the UK say that family friendly workplace policies would offer them more support if they were available today. To ensure women do not have to choose between their family and their careers, flexible working opportunities are a must. LinkedIn data finds that women are 26% more likely to apply to remote jobs than men.
  2. Carefully considering the language of job adverts and employer branding – The words that companies use to describe everything from job descriptions to  company culture influences its ability to attract a gender-balanced workforce. LinkedIn’s research finds that 44% of women would be discouraged from applying to a role if the word ‘aggressive’ was included in the job advert. To encourage more women to apply to roles, companies should be aware of masculine-coded language and instead use open and inclusive language, such as ‘supportive’ and ‘collaborative’.
  3. Expanding existing talent pools – Companies have the opportunity to tap into new and expanded talent pools which will help them to improve the diversity of their workforce and also bring new skills into the business. To reach more diverse talent, companies should consider their employer branding strategy and look to partner with organisations that have an existing engaged community or following. To ensure women benefit from this, it’s important businesses understand what matters most to them when choosing a new job and that these priorities are considered as part of company policy and benefits.

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