By Sabrina Philipp
The world is changing at a rapid pace, and the way we work, live and do business has changed along with it. Many changes have been obvious—increases in remote work, online business and flexible work schedules—while others have been subtle shifts toward what many are calling the New Normal.
For women, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique situation, turning the status quo on its edge. The economic uncertainty in the wake of lockdowns around the world have been labeled a ‘she-cession,’ with more women—especially women of color—being negatively impacted by the current recession. The gender pay gap alone will cost the average woman $900,000 over a 40-year career when compared to the average earnings of a man, and those numbers are much worse for minorities.
That said, not every change brought about by the pandemic has been negative. When it comes to women—both in the workplace and in entrepreneurship—here are several changes that make it clear women are ready, and willing, to step up and create change in a significant way.
There’s a Larger Push Toward Entrepreneurship
Female entrepreneurs have always faced an insane number of hurdles. They’re less likely to seek funding, less likely to receive funding and they have to deal with things like the complicated role family plays in female entrepreneurship, the burden of emotional labor at home, as well as sexism and a lack of mentors for female entrepreneurs.
Despite these obstacles, the number of women-owned businesses continues to rise. According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, there are 13 million women-owned businesses employing 9.4 million workers. While women-owned businesses took a heavy hit thanks to the pandemic, many have pivoted in order to adjust.
Traditional employment is changing. Thanks to high unemployment, many people are walking away from the workplace in favor of the gig economy, and it makes sense. Now that they can no longer rely on a steady paycheck, people are turning to other methods to support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurship and remote work offer a solution to this, one that many women are opting into—and will continue to pursue in the future.
Flexibility Is More Important Than Ever Before
Traditional employment has historically failed women. For working women—and all working parents—the typical 9-to-5 rarely offers enough flexibility to accommodate for the demands of work, family and life.
As such, many women have been forced to choose. ‘Having it all’ became an unrealistic and borderline mythical goal, when—in reality—it never should’ve been that difficult. Thanks to technology, flexible work environments and work schedules are more convenient than ever. Women can work from anywhere in the world, giving them greater flexibility to be at home and have a family.
For women of color, this is even more impactful, as minorities are far more likely to live in multi-generational homes. Unfortunately, this comes with its own set of challenges—from increased rates of housework among women of color, the burden of childcare and rising rates of domestic violence—but it’s become clear that promoting flexible, accommodating and inclusive workplaces are an easy way to support those women who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
Women Want Greater Control Over Their Income
Women have always crushed the side hustle game. In 2019, there was a 39 percent increase in the number of women with side gigs (versus a 21 percent increase in female-owned businesses and a 9 percent increase in the number of all businesses). Female minorities are two times as likely to start side gigs, and it’s easy to understand why.
There’s no glass ceiling when you cut your own paycheck. It’s easier to create a business—or launch a freelance gig—that suits your specific needs, wants and lifestyle versus struggling to rely on a workforce that is increasingly unreliable.
Plus, women help make the world a better place. Companies with female CEOs are more profitable—and have higher stock valuations—than those run by men. Countries with female leaders handled the coronavirus pandemic better than those run by men. Socially diverse groups—meaning those embracing diversity through race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.—are more innovative and better at solving complex problems.
Women are done sitting on the sidelines, and research proves that it’s better when they don’t.