By Luciana Paulise
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned workplaces upside down, with employees struggling to do their jobs, worrying about health and finance issues, and company cultures being jeopardized by remote work. Women, in particular, have been negatively impacted. Companies need to build systems to address these issues to prevent women from leaving the workplace.
Companies and organizations need to help to create programs and networking spaces to increase communication, awareness and bring discussions to the table on how to reduce biases and build a sustainable workplace for everyone.
The ASQ – American Society for Quality – is organizing this week for the first time an online Women in Quality Symposium to provide an avenue for women to establish meaningful connections, identify professional and personal development strategies, and be recognized for their unique capabilities to lead in a convenient, connected virtual space through panels and discussion tables.
A McKinsey research conducted in partnership with LeanIn.Org shows that one in three mothers have considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers because of Covid-19.
On top of Covid-19, women in STEM or male-dominated jobs are even more affected. The field of quality itself is a barrier:
– Not seen a revenue-generating department
– Often seen as pushing back on production (which IS revenue-generating)
– The culture of the industry remains male-dominated or male-led.
The focus areas are:
· Aligning Purpose, Passion, and Service
Focusing on meaningful ways to create a mentoring network (formally or informally) and establishing work-life integration in today’s evolving employment landscape.
· Identifying Leadership Attributes Inherent in Women
Recognizing leadership—and following those who exhibit its key traits—can lead to more diverse and inclusive work culture.
· Addressing Obstacles in Career Growth
Empowering women to overcome obstacles through confidence, an appetite for risk-taking risks, knowing when to say ‘no,’ recognizing unconscious/implicit gender bias in the workplace and supporting the cultivation of an authentic sense of self.
Kathryn Leonhardt, MD, MPH, CPHQ, CPPS, Principal Consultant, International Quality & Patient Safety, is one of the Symposium panelists. Kathryn points out some of the key lessons for overcoming barriers: “Seeking out mentors and sponsors, learning the cultural and organizational ‘language’ that is important to leadership and cultivating flexibility and resilience.
The financial consequences of losing women in the workplace could be significant. The McKinsey research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50 percent higher when women are well represented at the top.
Companies will have to dedicate more time to reshape the workplace to address these issues and avoid losing more women. They will have to put systems in place to coach their employees to get through this challenging time and develop a new culture, more flexible for everyone, that supports both in-person and remote workers.