Women in the Workplace: Employers' role in avoiding a 'she-cession'

Posted at 8:27 AM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 08:27:12-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — All week long on 7 Action News, we're highlighting "Women in the Workplace."

We're digging into what metro Detroit women are facing and how those obstacles have shifted during the pandemic. From childcare to maintaining a work-life balance or re-entering and leaving the workforce; we're tackling it all with a new topic each day.

Related: Women in the Workplace: How childcare problems may impact the bounce back

Now we're diving into what metro Detroit employers can do to improve their workplaces for women and mothers - statistically more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic than their male counterparts.

Dr. Bertie Greer, Associate Dean at Wayne State's Mike Illitch School of Business, said companies have a lot to lose, or to gain, based on the tone they are set as we return to work.

“Right up until we had the pandemic, conversations about flexibility at work or remote work were still a no-no. This pandemic really, has squashed that argument," she said.

Greer, who also knows what it's like to be a working mother herself, said the pandemic has shown us workplace flexibility can no longer be a perk, but is a necessity in some cases.

COVID, she said, taught us that it's possible to accommodate that.

“It becomes second place to see a child walk in the back of a video conference. It has become second place to hear interruptions," Greer said.

During the summer of 2020, the McKinsey Global Institute found women's jobs were almost twice as vulnerable during the pandemic as men's jobs, with working mothers, women in senior management roles, and Black women being the most impacted.

“I think as moms we take a lot of pride in our work in general," said Sadie Callegari, Director of Coaching and Training for the Perna Team at Keller Williams in Novi. "And we’re willing to get the work done, we just might need to have a little flexibility on exactly when that work is happening."

“I work two days a week with my son at home," she said. "So I’m sort of watching him from the corner of my eye and also doing my work.”

Her advice for staff and other working moms in the midst of juggling everything, is to give yourself a bit of a grace. Put in 100% percent while you are working, Callegari said.

“And then when you’re home do the same thing for your family. Put your phone to the side, be 100 percent present.”

That may mean blocking off your calendar on your off hours, something that might sound like the last thing an employer wants to hear. But this isn't just about morale, its about dollars and cents too Dr. Greer said.

“Turnover is expensive," Greer told Action News.

Data shows that inflexible work cultures have contributed to some women having to choose between caring for a loved one or advancing in their career or keeping a job.

“There is this issue of not necessarily gender, but gender plus," Greer said, the idea that employers are not concerned with gender, but rather what traditionally comes with it; kids, household duties, care-taking, etc.

Companies have a financial incentive to stop that from happening. McKinsey Global Institute also found that companies with gender diversity in their leadership teams were 25 percent more likely to be profitable.

“We’re going to have to work with our employees," said Greer. "Now we know we have more tools to use. Invite these tools into the workplace and figure out how to use them to retain your best and brightest.”