This Research Should Worry You!

Uncategorized Oct 16, 2020

I have been proud to wear the label #working mom. I took 8 months off when my daughter was born. And then I returned to the workplace. I tried to be a stay-at-home mom and honestly, I just wasn’t good at it.

Please don’t judge me. I made every career choice in my life based on how I was showing up as a mom. If I felt like Ali wasn’t getting what she needed, I knew it was time to pivot. And I did.

Like almost every working mom, I beat myself about the “juggle”. I realized pretty early on in my career that “having it all” was a crock. There were days when I could have won the Mom of the Year Award. And other days I just cried myself to sleep because I couldn’t get it together.

I was divorced when my daughter was three. So, I experienced the stress that single mom's experience as well.

But juggling in 2020 has taken on an entirely different level of gravity for working women.

COVID is wreaking havoc for everyone. But the collateral damage for working mom’s in unspeakable.

The majority of my clients are women. Many are the mama’s of young children. In the early days of the pandemic, and the old "new normal", ZOOM was a welcoming place for babies, toddlers and pups. I actually still love this.  Many of my clients will tell you that I know the names of their children... and love it when they make on-screen appearances.

But things have gotten so much harder. And there is so much judgement. And working mom's are at an exhaustion threshold. Let's face it, there has always been judgement, but it has become a crisis for women in the workplace in 2020.

My "empty-nest" friends and I talk about what's happening. The consensus is that we can't even imagine what this level of stress must feel like.

And it’s not just me noticing this.

The McKinsey Company 2020 Women in the Workplace study reveals alarming data.

“ 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.”

Empty-nest women like me can’t even imagine the pressure.

“The pressures of the pandemic are driving some employees—especially women—to consider downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce.”

The following factors were found to be predictive of the downshift or step-away....

  • Lack of flexibility at work
  • Feeling like they need to be available to work at all hours, i.e., “always on”
  • Housework and caregiving burdens due to Covid-19
  • Worry that their performance is being negatively judged because of caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic
  • Discomfort sharing the challenges they are facing with teammates or managers
  •  Feeling blindsided by decisions that affect their day-to-day work
  •  Feeling unable to bring their whole self to work

This is heartbreaking. And the judging is unacceptable.

“ I feel like I am failing at everything. I’m failing at work. I’m failing at my duties as a mom. I’m failing in every single way, because I think what we’re being asked to do is nearly impossible. How can you continue to perform at the same level as in the office when you had no distractions, plus being asked to basically become a teacher for kids and everything else with online learning? I’m doing it all, but at the same time I’m feeling like I’m not doing any of it very well. I also worry that my performance is being judged because I’m caring for my children. If I step away from my virtual desk and I miss a call, are they going to wonder where I am? I feel that I need to always be on and ready to respond instantly to whatever comes in. 

And if that’s not happening, then that’s going to reflect poorly on my performance.”-said one woman in the study.

Here’s some more data:

  • Mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on housework and childcare. This is equivalent to 20 hours a week, or half a full-time job.”
  • Mother's are also twice as likely as fathers to worry that their performance is being judged negatively  as a result of caregiving responsibilities.
  • 1.5 times more women are  likely than senior-level men to think about downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of Covid-19. Almost 3 in 4 cite burnout as a main reason

So what can we do? The McKinsey study outlines a few key interventions that we can consider:

  • Leaders need to look at productivity and performance expectations set before Covid-19.  Are these expectations still realistic.
  • Leaders also need to reset goals, narrow project scopes, or keep the same goals and extend deadlines.
  • Companies should look for ways to re-establish work-life boundaries setting hours for meetings and even putting policies in place for responding to emails outside typical business hours
  • Create policies that limit the number of ZOOM meetings a day.
  •  I am hearing this constantly from my clients. Every day is filled with back to back meetings. ZOOM fatigue is real.
  • Encourage employees to set their own boundaries. We have to let go of old thinking about when a workday begins and ends. We need to just think about the nature of work differently.
  • Leaders need to communicate their support for workplace flexibility—57 percent of employees say senior leaders at their company have done this during Covid-19.

And finally, we need to MODEL THE WAY. By demonstrating flexibility in our own lives, we send a message to employees that we are walking our talk around flexible and compassionate work environments. The research found that when employees believe senior leaders are supportive of their flexibility needs, they are less likely to consider downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce.

 As leaders we must step forward. We need the unique gift's women bring to the workplace now more than ever. We've spent year's creating mentorship programs. Leadership development programs. Without serious action, we risk losing our best and brightest female leaders.

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