Although 1 in 5 women (19%) left the workforce during the pandemic, nearly two-thirds (63%) plan to return, according to a recent study conducted by Metlife, in partnership with Rainmakers CSI.
Among the benefits that women said they most wanted were increased leave and flexibility (78%), career progression opportunities (73%), economic incentives and tailored benefits (71%), upskilling programs (67%), and DEI programs (63%). The study, which gave special consideration to women in STEM fields, found that women in STEM were most likely to leave due to poor work-life balance. It also found that such women face distinct challenges, including a lack of mentorship, a lack of diversity, and cultural biases.
The study was conducted in September 2021 and drew upon a sample of 2,000 interviews, including full- and part-time employees, gig workers, and those out of work seeking employment.
Women have been leaving the workforce in droves since the pandemic began; nearly 2.1 million women left their jobs in 2020, including 564,000 Black women and 317,000 Latinas, according to an analysis from the National Women’s Law Center.
This departure has been due in large part to a child care crisis. With children mostly back in school, employers are likely breathing a sigh of relief as women begin to trickle back into the workforce.
For many female workers, however, the pandemic has been an opportunity to reflect on their needs and re-evaluate their requirements in a future position. Given that women carry the brunt of care duties, it follows that flexibility and generous leave policies top their wish list. It’s also no surprise that better pay and benefits are among their demands; burned out from the past couple of years, many workers are looking for these elements in their next job.
That women are also looking for career progression opportunities and upskilling programs reflects other findings that emerged this year — that women tend to be overlooked in managerial training and that leaders often tend to hire and promote from their homogeneous networks.
How should employers proceed? Earlier this year, HR Dive reported on ADP’s virtual Women@Work summit, at which panelists offered some ideas, including mentorship and flexibility. HR Dive’s sister site, Construction Dive, also unearthed some ideas for attracting and retaining female applicants in a Q&A with Leon Harden, diversity and inclusion strategy manager for construction company Burns & McDonnell.