Tag: equality

COVID-19 Sent Women’s Workforce Progress Backwards

How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected women in the workforce?

The collapse of the childcare industry and reductions in school supervision hours as a result of COVID-19 are driving hundreds of thousands of  mothers out of the workforce.  Four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September 2020… approximately 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men. The lack of childcare infrastructure and family-oriented workplace policies present challenges for women. National inaction in conjunction with  already unstable childcare infrastructure will have a negative impact on women’s employment and labor force participation rates. In turn, this will negatively affect current and future earnings of women.

The losses in availability of childcare as a result of the pandemic is leading to a decline in women’s total wages. It is estimated that there could be approximately $64.5 billion in lost wages per year if the current predicament persists. Without a coordinated national response, these consequences will have ripple effects that will hurt communities and stifle the economic recovery.

Interruptions in childcare affect women more than men. Women have been forced to reduce their work hours, leave work to care for children, and spend more time on education and household tasks. Women with young children have reduced their work hours in rates that are four to five times greater than the reductions of men. These disproportionate reductions have doubled the gap between the number of hours worked by women and by men, thus leading to a significant reduction of women’s income. The impact of loss of child has appeared to be borne entirely on the backs of mothers of school age children.

How has the pandemic affected women of color?

Women/mothers of color face intersecting oppressions exacerbated by the pandemic. Women of color are more likely to have lost their job than their white female counterparts and have higher numbers of being on the front lines as essential workers. This has caused a disproportionate reduction of wages for women of color and an increased health risk.

Black women in particular experience many more job disruptions due to inadequate childcare.

Unfortunately, there are too many factors that make it impossible to predict exactly how families/women will be impacted by the shifting landscape of public health, employment, and caregiving due to COVID-19.  The impact of this level of disruption to women’s ability is proving to be substantial. Maternal labor force participation has been increasing over time. This slight decline would undo the past 25 years of progress.

What is Momentum doing to support?

Momentum Leaders is working actively to help combat the negative implications that the pandemic has on women in the workforce. Since March 2020, Momentum has invested in equipment, staff time and media to provide content to inspire, educate and connect women through this tough time. Webinars, panel discussions, mentor matching podcasts, blog, email newsletters, and all social media have been made free, making it accessible to anyone in the community. Momentum has hosted virtual events that have focused on wellness strategies for the challenges of coping with what 2020 has thrown at us. We continue to support women in the workforce through our Upward Early-Career Program, Men with Momentum, Mentor Matching Program, and Biennial Conference. Momentum is working to expand our reach beyond the Birmingham metro area, to reach an even broader audience!

Defining Intersectionality

The Case for Intersectionality

Intersectionality has been a commonplace phrase in the feminist realm since Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989. Essentially, it refers to the notion that the combination of different identities – age, race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality dramatically influence the way people experience the world. The intersection of these identities contributes to the obstacles and/or privileges that those who share some but not all identities may experience.

Too often, human resource stakeholders fall into the trap of the one size fits all approach. Its appeal in simplicity sacrifices efficacy. These one size fits all approaches for women in leadership aim to solve the challenges for white, middle-class, cisgender women. The Western default. Which leaves out doubly or triply marginalized women as a result. As organizational demographics evolve, they leave out more women than they aim to benefit.

According to research conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. in 2019, women make up 38 percent of frontline leader-level positions in the United States and Canada. White women hold 27 percent of these manager roles and women of color only hold 12 percent. The disparity is even greater at the executive level. White women hold 18 percent of roles while women of color hold 4 percent.

These discrepancies are due to a large disfunction of systemic and cultural barriers, not just failed women advocacy programs. Infusing intersectionality into policies and practices aimed at advancing women in leadership can help.

How can we do better?

Embracing intersectionality means embracing variety which adds an element of complexity. To ensure an environment where everyone can thrive because of their differences, follow these three steps:

1. Ask the Experts

The ideal approach is to have a diversity and inclusion expert with a focus on human-centered design to solve persistent and painful challenges with an empathetic perspective. Applying these principles to intersectionality and women’s advocacy efforts ensures the correct focus. The women leaders that are the goal are experts in their own experiences and challenges. Opening a dialogue creates space for these women to tell you exactly what they need without any guesswork.  

2. Diverse Populations Deserve Diverse Solutions

It is necessary to tailor approaches to fit different populations to achieve satisfaction. Equality is about giving everyone the same level of support, but equity requires different supports for different situations.

3. Use Multi-Dimensional Metrics to Track Multi-Level Impact

Lean on metrics, track engagement, retention, promotion, salary, and representation to measure the success of empowering women leaders. It is important to look at the data from a demographic perspective to see if the efforts positively impact all women. If efforts to advance women leaders are working for certain groups disproportionately, it is important to investigate and reevaluate accordingly.

The Kids are Alright

 

In July 2020, Harvard Business Researchers surveyed a group of 2,500 working parents to assess the importance of the (declining) childcare industry in supporting the reopening economy, following the Covid-19 outbreak. The study held by fellow professionals and mothers – Alicia Sasser Modestino, Jamie J. Ladge, Addie Swartz, and Alisa Lincoln – aimed to examine the impact felt by the 50 million parent U.S. workforce with children under the age of 14. The results presented that 20% of working parents across low and high-income brackets had to leave work or reduce their hours because of the lack of childcare. Of them, nearly a third claimed it was down to the “more capable parent,” while less than a quarter decided based on income bracket.

Why is this an issue?

The survey displayed a heavy lenience towards traditional gender roles, and found that 26% of women surveyed were expected to step-down from their work roles. In addition, the expectations of the role of an active mother and breadwinner have only surmounted for single mothers and women of color. The survey showed that women were more likely to reduce hours at work if they were Black, or if they were single, divorced, separated, or widowed. The report subsequently argued for businesses to assume the responsibility for arranging childcare, as opposed to individual employees. Seeing the weighted and incredibly meaningful contribution of women in the workforce – plus, the possible addition of 5% to the U.S. GDP – it is crucial for companies to address these inequities for working women parents.

Temporary Solutions

In September 2020, the Birmingham Business Alliance compiled a list of resources to support parents managing their work and homeschooling pressures, including YWCA’s School Support Program, The Levite Jewish Community Center Day Camps, and YMCA and similar community center services. Wyndy offers an app to connect local nannies and sitters to parents in need of childcare services. Additionally, Childcare Resources’ is a Central Alabama agency connecting families to over 700 childcare programs that fit their needs.

Be S.M.A.R.T.

What are your goals for your career?  For your life? We like to use the S.M.A.R.T. method to break down large goals into smaller pieces. As you check off each shorter goal, they begin to snowball and eventually you have attained the larger one!

Here’s a great example from Mindy Santo, our Mentoring Coordinator, who wants to promote our mentoring program.  Her goal:  Increase awareness of Momentum’s mentoring program by featuring topics on our social media platforms reaching readers within and outside our network to help women progress toward their goals of skills development, like; leadership, professional presence, or entrepreneurship within their organizations.

 

Mindy’s SMART goal breakdown:

S-pecific increase awareness of Momentum’s Mentoring program through our social media platforms

M-easurable reach goal by end of Q1

A-ttainable increase our Mentor and Mentee pool of candidates by 20%

R-elevant reach readers within and outside our network to help women progress toward their goals of skills development, like; leadership, professional presence, or entrepreneurship within their organizations

T-ime-bound feature one topic every Thursday on the benefits of mentoring

 

By defining Mindy’s mission, she is able to tackle her goal one piece at a time and hit her target.

 

“Mentoring has touched me in so many ways. From the gift of personally being mentored so I could do my thing, to connecting with courageous women who want to be mentored because they want to do their thing — no matter if they’re moving up, out, or laterally — and finally to the exceptional Mentors who are willing to help their Mentees accomplish those things (who may surprisingly get something in return!). All of these people have special meaning.”

 

Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator

Mentoring is:

A gift

Up-leveling

The courage to show up, open up, and give yourselves grace during the moments of discomfort

Setting expectations AND meeting them

An unexpected mutual exchange between Mentee AND Mentor

Bringing you’re A-game to serve AND be served

A selfless act of generosity

Fulfilling and SO worthwhile

Paying it forward

Rewarding

Realizing you are a step ahead of someone with your life experience, and that you all have skills and talents in certain areas that can be beneficial to someone else

 

Have you challenged yourself to reach a goal?  Do you need a little guidance?  Momentum’s Mentoring Program may be a perfect fit for you to help you climb to your highest potential.  Check out our website or reach out for more information!

Gender Wage Gap: Fact or Fiction?

“Women earn less because they take time off for motherhood.”

The census data collected by the National Women’s Law Center in 2019 calculated that women lose an average of $16,000 a year due to the “motherhood penalty.” Mothers in the U.S. earn 24.8 percent less than their paternal counterparts. Mothers also have to deal with employers that harbor certain biases. Employers have stereotypes about the value of mothers as employees. They are perceived to be less committed to the job, less dependable, and more emotional. This discriminatory thought process plays a significant role in the limitations for working mothers.

This bias includes these mother’s coworkers as well. A 2018 study conducted by Bright Horizons, which operates over 1,000 early education childcare centers in the United States, found that 41 percent of employed Americans perceived working mothers to be less devoted to their work than single women. Over one-third judge working mothers on their inflexibility. The number of women worried about announcing their pregnancies bosses and coworkers has nearly doubled from 12 percent to 21 percent since 2015.

“Women choose lower-paying careers so it makes sense why men make more money.”

Women do choose lower-paying careers in comparison to their male counterparts. Those careers being paid lower is part of the problem. Young girls are steered away from certain subjects from childhood by their parents, teachers, and peers. From a young age, boys are expected to be better in math and science. These fields typically result in higher pay. Girls are encouraged to enter into “traditional” careers as a result of this bias.

Women don’t choose low-paying jobs. Society values women’s work less. Job industries dominated by women pay less than those dominated by men. For example, teaching, especially early childhood, is a field dominated by women. The work is insanely hard and demanding, it requires certain skills and educations, and the success of future generations depends on their shoulders. Yet, because these teachers are mostly women, the pay is not proportional to the demand of the job.

“Saying a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes is an exaggeration!”

Comparing the difference in annual earnings between men and women finds that women make about 23 cents less per dollar than men on average. These statistics are even less favorable for women of color who on average earn significantly less than their white coworkers. Looking at weekly earnings between men and women, the figure is a little smaller, around an 18 cent difference.

When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1959, women were only making 59 cents on the dollar. That figure rose to 77 cents by 2004 and has increased by less than half a penny annually.

At some point or another, every woman has heard these three statements in her career. The issue with these statements is that they make women intentionally feel like second-class citizens in a patriarchal society that perpetuates fictional beliefs that harm women in the corporate sector. 

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.