As I reflect on Women’s History Month, I celebrate the progress of where we’ve been and the progress made of women joining the workforce. It’s a continuous journey and in the “Digital Age” of technological advances and disruption the workforce demands are ever changing and progressing faster than the human mind can keep up. Companies can no longer be complacent and must transform, or be left behind. The same applies to our workforce, corporations and particularly the opportunities presented for women in the workforce. In 2020 and with COVID-19, we saw women exiting the workforce and years of progress wiped out in a single year. How do we recover and encourage women to rejoin the workforce, or retain those who contemplate departure? The opportunity to support women is needed now more than ever as we face a greater shortage and companies scramble for retention strategies to bridge the gap.
An article from USA Today in October revealed that amidst the pandemic, 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce compared to 216,000 men. Overall, the United States job market added 661,000 jobs between August and September, according to the latest jobs report released last October by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Our work within the Women Business Collaborative (WBC) is one that brings together collaboration and “power in numbers” to enable greater impact and make a difference.
As a woman in the tech workforce, I reflect in reaching back to support others throughout their career. Having a support system is key to women in the workforce and one we encourage as they struggle with work/life balance. Every individual has their own personal story and the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers in 2021 reflect the “1st Female Recession” within the workforce. This is a Call to Action for women to help change the trajectory. Our call to support other women to navigate through the stages of the career lifecycle is one of great need. Through great mentorship, sponsorship, coaching, and advocating, we can provide women lessons learned, encouragement, strength, and emotional fortitude. Throughout my career, my support system encouraged me to remain in the technology industry. Like many of my colleagues, we traveled the journey together while reaching back to help other women and coaching them all along the way. Formulating various ways to create “trusted networks” and outreach to our female workforce is an opportunity to impact and pivot the numbers of women in the workforce.
In 2015, Corporate America began a greater focus in recruiting, and promoting women in the workforce. Several CEOs and corporations launched initiatives to increase the numbers of women in tech, some targeting 25% of their workforce by 2025. While progress continues – but not to the extent of 25% – the impact of COVID brought a tremendous decline as women were overwhelmed with the responsibility of balancing work and life, specifically caring for their children during the COVID shutdown of schools. We saw an evolution of corporations providing greater support to retain their workforce, yet women were impacted the most . We have work to be done as we rebuild. Now more than ever, CEOs/corporations are realizing the importance of diversity for innovation and impact. Recruiting efforts for women are stronger and stronger. CEOs are taking action, including providing training to help people recognize their unconscious biases and investigating salaries to ensure fairness in pay.
The work of WBC in the Women in the Pipeline Action Initiative allows us an opportunity to raise greater awareness of the call to action and reach the goals set forth in the Women in Technology Action Initiative, one of which is to decrease the female quit rate in the technology sector by 50% by 2030. The benefits of having a diverse workforce is powerful to corporations. As we see in the Deloitte INsights – Perspectives from Leading Women CIOs, the impact of diverse teams is impactful on all levels of corporate performance. With intentional actions to keep women in the workforce and measurable goals to work towards, WBC is setting a great example of how we can offset this “she-cession.”