A crisis is looming in corporate America.
The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted corporate America in ways we’ve never seen before. No one is experiencing business as usual, but women—especially mothers, senior-level women and Black women—are facing distinct challenges.
One in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to Covid-19. Without bold steps, companies could lose millions of women and erase all the progress we’ve made toward gender diversity in the six years of this study.
Learn more about how Covid-19 has impacted working mothers, senior-level women, and Black women below—and read the report for a framework for taking action.
Covid-19 could push many mothers out of the workforce
As they take on heavier burdens at home, mothers worry they’ll be judged more harshly at work.
Working mothers were already working a “double shift” before Covid-19. Now, they’re doing even more housework and childcare—and they’re concerned that their performance will be judged negatively as a result. Unfortunately, they may be right to worry. There’s long been a false perception that mothers can’t be truly invested in both family and work, and are therefore less committed to their jobs than fathers and women without children. Now that family demands are front and center, that bias could be strengthened.
- Mothers are 3 times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of their family’s housework and childcare during Covid-19.
- Mothers are more than twice as likely as fathers to worry that their performance is being judged negatively due to their caregiving responsibilities.
- 3 in 10 mothers have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of Covid-19, and mothers are far more likely than fathers to think about taking these steps.
Explore Women in the Workplace
Read the full report to learn more about the impact of Covid-19 on working mothers.Read the report
“I don’t talk about my caregiving responsibilities with my boss. Women with children always have some stigma attached to them in the workplace. People might think I don’t work as hard because I have children. I never want that stigma to be attached to me and my work.”
Companies are at risk of losing women in leadership
Senior-level women are experiencing the same pressures as senior-level men—and then some.
The Covid-19 crisis has created unprecedented challenges for company leaders. But it’s been especially difficult for senior-level women. Compared to men at the same level, women leaders tend to have less support at home, are often held to higher performance standards, and are more likely to feel pressure to work more during Covid-19. Not surprisingly, they are also more likely to consider leaving the workforce due to burnout—if that happens, women at all levels will lose their most powerful allies and champions.
- More than a third of senior-level women have consistently felt pressured to work more during the pandemic, compared to just over a quarter of senior-level men.
- Senior-level women are 1.5 times as likely as senior-level men to think about downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce because of Covid-19, and almost 3 in 4 cite burnout as a primary reason.
- 38 percent of senior-level women currently mentor or sponsor one or more women of color, compared to only 23 percent of senior-level men.
Explore Women in the Workplace
Read the full report to learn more about the challenges senior-level women are facing.Read the report
“There was a pressure I personally felt leading a 200-person team. For all of them, I had to solve basic questions like, ‘Does everyone have laptops?’ and make major safety calls like, ‘Everybody, get home.’ I felt a personal responsibility to take care of my team and make sure that they weren’t scared, that they had marching orders, and that they had guidance on the state of our business.”
Black women are less likely to feel supported at work during Covid-19
Black women are being disproportionately impacted by the difficult events of 2020.
Black women already faced more barriers than most other groups of employees. Now they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black communities and the emotional toll of heightened focus on racial violence. And for many, work is not a supportive place; Black women get less support from managers, are less likely to have strong allies, and are more likely to feel like they can’t bring their whole selves to work.
- Fewer than one in three Black women report their manager has checked in on them in light of recent racial violence.
- Black women are less likely than any other group of women to say that they have strong allies at work.
- Black women are more likely than any other group of employees to feel that they can’t talk about the impact current events are having on them and people in their community.
Explore Women in the Workplace
Read the full report to learn more about the impacts on Black women at work.Read the report
“There was a real silence after George Floyd happened. And I felt like that silence ripped open a wound that I didn’t realize had been so deep. What was disappointing, and what I heard from multiple Black colleagues was, ‘I have all these people who I work with every single day who I think care about me. But that week we were mourning as a community, and no one reached out. No one said a word.’”
Companies need to take bold steps to make work more sustainable and inclusive
Companies are taking important steps to support employees during Covid-19. But most aren’t doing enough to get at the crux of the problem for most women—namely burnout—or to address the distinct challenges that Black women and other women of color are facing.
A framework for action
Success will look different for different organizations, but all companies should consider steps like:
Adjusting performance expectations
Including goals, deadlines, and performance review criteria, to account for the challenges of the pandemic.
Establishing new norms for remote work
Such as limiting hours for meetings and encouraging employees to set work-life boundaries, so employees don’t feel like they are “always on.”
Educating employees on gender bias
Including how it may be amplified during Covid-19 and what colleagues and managers can do to combat it.
Providing allyship and anti-racism training
So employees understand how to combat racial discrimination and show up as allies for their Black colleagues.
Companies need to challenge bias against women at work
The pandemic may be amplifying biases women have faced for years: higher performance standards, harsher judgment for mistakes, and penalties for being mothers and for taking advantage of flexible work options. And Black women, who have always faced double discrimination at work, are bearing an even heavier burden due to the impacts of Covid-19 and racist violence on the Black community.
50 Ways to Fight Bias - Card activity
Pairing a virtual activity with a short video series, 50 Ways to Fight Bias gives people the tools to address the biases that women face at work—including new cards on the unique experiences of Black women, Latinas, and working mothers. 90% of employees who’ve participated say they know what specific actions to take when they see bias against women in the workplace.Get the cards
Developed in collaboration with gender experts from the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, Paradigm, a diversity and inclusion strategy consulting firm, and Minda Harts.