Women have born the brunt of job loss and negative career impacts over the course of the pandemic, due to a host of factors such as carrying the weight of caregiving responsibilities, as well as their overrepresentation in in-person jobs vulnerable to disruption during the Covid-19 crisis.
As a result, nearly half of all women say the pandemic has negatively impacted their career path, according to a MetLife survey of 2,000 U.S. workers conducted in September. Nearly 1 in 5 women say they’ve been pushed out of the labor force altogether.
One encouraging sign is emerging, however, which could signal greater economic recovery: 2 in 3 women who’ve been forced out of work say they plan to return, according to MetLife.
At the same time, U.S. employers are facing a talent crunch as Americans quit their jobs at record rates throughout 2021, in search of roles better suited to their needs and interests. As such, employment experts say businesses must turn their attention toward what kind of work environment and solutions they can provide in order to hire and retain more working women.
Women are overwhelmingly looking for increased flexibility (78%) and career progression opportunities (73%) in their current or future employer, the MetLife report finds.
The majority of women also say they it’s important their current or future employer provides economic incentives; tailored benefits; upskilling programs; and diversity, equity and inclusion programs in order for them to feel well supported in the workplace.
Majority of women are considering a career change
More than half, 56%, of women say they’ve thought about a career change during the pandemic, MetLife found — double the 1 in 4 women who felt that way in the summer of 2020.
“We’ve reached a critical inflection point in the workplace where women are evaluating their careers in a new light,” said Bill Pappas, MetLife’s executive vice president and global technology and operations head, in a statement.
Already, 1 in 8 working women said they changed employers or jobs in the last 18 months. Overall, women are less likely than men to say they intend to still be working with the same employer in the next 12 months.
Employment experts say leaders must focus on who’s most likely to leave an organization in order to identify areas where they can provide better support systems to retain those employees. When businesses identify the groups most in need of help for retention, they can take targeted actions to support these workers rather than deploy generic programs and initiatives.
From the MetLife survey, for example, it stands to reason that many women believe they would benefit from increased flexibility options and clear opportunities to advance in their career, whether through mentorship, upskilling or dedicated tracks that lead to promotions.