The weight of this current environment, from COVID health concerns to the civil protest movement, impacts the fundamental, functional and motivational aspects of employee engagement. Today’s article examines the effects on women in the workplace from COVID-19, and the role of executive leadership
On March 19th of this year, The Atlantic ran an insightful article titled, “The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism.” Observing that “pandemics affect men and women differently” and that the “looking after” (of the sick, the children out of school, etc.) needed in a pandemic would disproportionately fall on women, the author predicted this pandemic will send “many couples back to the 1950s.” Indeed. And yet, does it have to be this way?
This pause is adversely affecting women, and significantly so. Turning a blind eye to this is toxic positivity, at its worst. And yet, in times of strife, where deconstruction of the norm becomes the norm, leaders rise and determine the direction of tomorrow. In other words, we can use this pivotal time to reset and to reevaluate the entire prior system, rather than fighting for a return to it. Now that we know and understand “working from home” in ways we never did before, how can we restructure the workplace to increase opportunities for women? What core values do senior leaders, those with control to effect meaningful change, rely on to begin this work? How does one rise to the occasion of reshaping the past?
Transparency and De-Stigmatization of Reality
One of the best example of senior leadership that I’ve seen is Roxy Bargoz, General Counsel of Avant and mother of two, who outright told me she uses her seniority to “normalize the juggle of work and kids” by being transparent about “the noise and chaos happening” all around her. Ms. Bargoz represents that class of female executives who are trailblazers in the ways they de-stigmatize motherhood in the workplace. She’s phenomenally successful, works hard, meets and exceeds all target, but refuses to “set unattainable standards by pretending everything is 100% under control.”
Executives who have enough courage and confidence to match this level of vulnerability adjust the expectations of and for the women in their employ, thus transforming their workplace into the new century.