Monday 14th December 2020
It’s been a tough year for everyone, and after all the recent upheavals of the past few months none of us really know for sure what to expect in 2021. Not only have our everyday routines been completely disrupted over the past 12 months, but our work patterns have also gone through dramatic transformation.
It had already been an ongoing battle to create more equality in the workplace, even before the pandemic, and concerningly, women in particular appear to have been affected the most when it comes to workplace disruption due to the effects of Covid19. The most recent McKinsey Women in the Workplace study shows that women, particularly women of colour, have been more negatively impacted by layoffs, furloughs, having to juggle work and homelife responsibilities (such as bearing the majority of childcare/home schooling and home labour whilst simultaneously being on call for work) and many women sadly dealing with the impact of increases in domestic and racial abuse.
There has been a backwards step for a lot of women in their professions, with many having to reduce work hours and set back their careers in order to manage all the extra familial responsibilities, more women overall losing out on retained positions as organisations grapple with having to reduce their workloads and many industries that are predominantly female weighted having to be put on hold due to lockdown measures.
Getting Women On Board
Positively, there has been a concerted effort across the UK in recent years to reduce the disparity between men women in the workplace, particularly across boards, and the Hampton-Alexander Review, an independent, business-led framework supported by the Government, set recommendations back in 2016 for FTSE 350 companies to increase the representation of women on their boards and in leadership positions by the end of December 2020. Encouragingly, and despite the pandemic, more than a third of board members are now women; however, over 4 in 10 FTSE 350 companies have still so far failed to reach their target to ensure women make up 33% of their boards.
Across social housing it is a slightly better but not exceptional story, with Inside Housing’s Housing Diversity Survey from 2019 finding that women were still underrepresented at both board and executive level (41.1% and 39.7%) within housing associations. The NHF’s recent report out at the end of November, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion In Housing Association Staff In England, called for greater leadership to tackle a lack of diversity in the workforce, and drive better representation across housing associations of those living in social households, nearly 60% of which are headed by a woman.
Leading the Way To Success
As we head into 2021, it’s important that we take stock of how the pandemic has impacted inequality in the workplace and at home, to look at how best we can protect and support those most affected, and how we can challenge and break through any recent barriers that Covid has erected, to ensure much fought for ground regarding equality over recent years is not lost for women in the workplace. As we all transition into new ways of working, communicating, responding and developing in our careers, we need to ensure our new work patterns, processes and practices make it easier, not harder, for the most at risk of being affected by Covid19 (and not just women) across the workforce, to succeed.
As leaders, it is important to be a part of driving this change, and positively, those organisations that are driven by more modern leaders who embrace empathy, vulnerability, authenticity and individualised employee support mechanisms are the ones emerging from this pandemic as the biggest success stories. In essence it has never been more important, or a better time, to embrace new leadership and work together as an industry to ensure equality in the workplace is a top priority as we move forward into the new working world post-Covid.