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Women in the Workplace 2020 – A crisis is looming in corporate America

The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted corporate America in ways we’ve never seen before. No one is experiencing business as usual, but women—especially mothers, senior-level women and Black women—have faced distinct challenges. One in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to Covid-19.

This year’s report makes one thing clear: Corporate America is at a critical crossroads. Without bold steps, we could erase all the progress we’ve made toward gender diversity in the six years of this study. But if companies rise to the moment, we can lay the foundation for a more flexible and equitable workplace in the long-term.

This is the sixth year of the Women in the Workplace study—a year unlike any other.

The events of 2020 have turned workplaces upside down. Under the highly challenging circumstances of the Covid-19 crisis, many employees are struggling to do their jobs. Many feel like they’re “always on” now that the boundaries between work and home have blurred. They’re worried about their family’s health and finances. Burnout is a real issue. Women in particular have been negatively impacted.

Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the Covid-19 crisis1 , stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security.

The pandemic has also intensified challenges that women already face in the workplace. Working mothers have always worked a “double shift”—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this even possible for women—including school and childcare—have been upended.

Meanwhile, Black women already face more barriers to advancement than most other employees. Today they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the Black community.2 And the emotional toll of repeated instances of racial violence falls heavily on their shoulders.

As a result of these dynamics, 1 in 4 women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable less than a year ago: downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce.3

This is a critical moment for corporate America. Companies risk losing women in leadership—and future women leaders—and unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity.

This crisis also represents an opportunity. If companies make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace—and there are signs that this is starting to happen—they can retain the employees most impacted by today’s crises and create more opportunities for women to succeed in the long term.

Corporate America is at a crossroads. The choices that companies make today will have consequences both for their organizations and society for decades to come.

Women in the Workplace is the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. Based on data from 317 companies employing more than 12 million people, this year’s report features:

  • An overview of what companies are doing to support employees during COVID-19—where they’ve stepped up, and where they can do more
  • A detailed look at the dynamics that are driving mothers, senior-level women, and Black women to consider downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce
  • Recommended strategies for addressing the core challenges women are facing and taking an intersectional approach to diversity

Read the full report for a framework for taking action.

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