It’s hard to ignore that this year’s International Women’s Day coincides with the one-year anniversary of the start of COVID-19 lockdowns in the US. These past twelve months have been traumatic for most Americans, and especially for the most vulnerable among us.
According to the World Economic Forum, we were over 250 years away from closing the global gender economic gap as of December 2019. There is no question that the gap has only widened due to the impact of the pandemic – both economic and structural. Women and especially Women of Color have been disproportionately likely to lose their jobs. And since over 60% of US schools are still either virtual or hybrid, many other women have fallen victim to the incomprehensible juggle of simultaneous full-time schooling and full-time work.
According to a recent study fielded by Deloitte among 400 working women in 9 countries, nearly 82% of women said their lives have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. 65% have more responsibility for housework, and 53% of those with children had taken on home-schooling education responsibilities. Nearly half (45%) of workers say they are working more.
Meanwhile, many people feel that the new normal of work-from-home – which started with the promise of more flexibility – has ended with a scenario in which we never leave work. According to Asana, 60% of workers say they are doing more “work for work’s sake.”
Burnout is ubiquitous. The pain and helplessness of many women is readily apparent in the Fairygodboss community where women come together anonymously to share their career experiences. Women who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic are having enormous difficulty landing the next role, and those who’ve remained in the workforce feel isolated and exhausted. The fallout is so apparent that The New York Times recently devoted an entire print newspaper section to the topic, entitled “American’s Mothers Are In Crisis.” Everywhere I look in my personal life, I see women who are spent.
So what is there to do? This IWD, I’m redoubling my efforts to lift other women up. Here’s what I’m thinking about.
1. Assume Positive Intent.
Brene Brown has been a tremendous source of inspiration to me throughout good times and bad. One of my favorite teachings of hers is to “assume positive intent.” People (myself included!) make mistakes and get things wrong all the time – and often, our default is to connect their mistake or offense with intent. But in most cases, no one intends to do wrong by each other. And especially in our overtaxed, exhausted states, many of us are mistepping more than usual.
As I consider the other women in my life this IWD, I’m thinking about how I can take a breath and pause before reacting to situations. I’m trying to spend more time thinking about where they may be coming from before taking offense and I’m practicing forgiveness. I hope others will do the same for me.
2. Listen and Encourage.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a mentor in the first ever Fairygodboss Job Search Bootcamp, working with three phenomenal women who’ve lost their jobs as a result of Covid. Their struggle and perseverance has given me humility. It is so hard to wake up every day in the face of these difficulties, especially with family and friends watching from the sidelines.
If I could give each of them a job, I would do it in a heartbeat. But since I can’t (or not the right job, anyway) the best thing I can do is provide them with a sounding board. The emotional load of this experience is so heavy. For many women, their most urgent need is a way to unload it just a little bit.
Right now, one of the easiest and best ways we can support each other is to make time to connect, listen, and respond with encouragement. Often, the best gift we can give is an infusion of positivity.
3. Stand Up for Each Other.
While many women are negatively impacted by the pandemic, it’s clear that some are facing greater challenges. Black women experience a double trauma every day due to ongoing racial injustices, and many are still uneasy following the events of last summer. Latina women have been greatly affected by job losses. And Asian-American women are now confronting a new epidemic of discrimination and violence.
As I think about how I can help lift other women up this IWD, I’m thinking specifically about how I can learn more about helping other women and lend my voice to supporting them. This crisis affecting women will not be resolved until all of us are able to find equal footing.
Georgene and I conceived Fairygodboss as a platform through which women can lift each other up and support each other in our time of need. Never has this chorus of support been more necessary.