Coaching is Key to The Economic Recovery For Women
By Rebecca Henderson
This year’s World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos was an important gathering for leaders in light of numerous crises facing the global community. Among the many urgent issues receiving attention include how the labor market can support faster economic recovery for working women, who were disproportionately affected during the pandemic.
By now, most are aware of the added challenges working women took on during the pandemic. The loss of employment, the burden of more responsibilities at home, and the rising burnout rates all contributed to lower labor market participation rates in 2020. But in recent months women have accounted for a majority of the jobs recovered, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Good news, right? Not exactly.
The center estimates that since February 2020, U.S. women are still down 829,000 jobs. Even more alarming is the lingering effect of the pandemic on working moms with lower skills, new research shows. And the hardest hit are black women without college degrees, according to the New York Times, because they are overrepresented in service and caregiver jobs and were more likely to have contracted COVID-19 or cared for someone who did.
More than ever, businesses need to reduce economic disparity by helping working-class women acquire more marketable skills and advance their careers through training, development, and coaching support. The polarization of the global economy and labor market – in which the income gap between highly and minimally skilled workers is accelerating – is an unsustainable trend that everyone should be concerned about. This is leading to intensifying poverty in more places around the world, but employers can help reverse this trend through integrated initiatives to help women continue to advance in their careers. Let’s take a look at how.
Economic factors impacting women and wages
Since the economic recovery began building momentum in 2021, the global economy and labor market have posted remarkable growth. U.S. job openings reached a record high in March, and the number of voluntary quits also set a new bar at 4.5 million. At the same time, wages are rising as a result of both strong hiring and high inflation. While the economic news has been positive earlier in the year, signs and warnings of a possible recession are growing, and this may be especially troubling for the most vulnerable.
Because lower-skilled workers, particularly women, have been the slowest to regain economic progress lost during the pandemic, a potential recession later this year may subject this group to even more setbacks just as they are rejoining the workforce and earning higher wages. Higher prices have also offset some of the wage growth these workers have received during the past year, so it’s important to help them advance their careers.
How can this be done without further accelerating wage inflation? U.S. productivity declined in the first quarter by the fastest amount since 1947 as the economy was rocked by a number of factors including continued disruptions from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and slower economic activity. Global productivity is also forecasted to stall for all of 2022.
Skills building for the future
To overcome these challenges, the global economy will need to invest in innovation, restructuring, digital transformation, automation, and efficiency improvements, according to a recent report from the Conference Board. These investments need to be broad-based, including equipment, processes, and especially people.
Over the past two years, reskilling and upskilling have been pivotal in the recovery efforts of many organizations, and employers will need to continue to build the competencies of their workforce in the months and years ahead to achieve better productivity. At the same time, leaders should also budget for such investments to grow these skills in a highly dynamic global economy. Both public and private sectors need to allocate more resources for the training, development, and coaching of women, so they are more prepared for an increasingly digital world.
It’s not enough, however, for employers and governments to offer career-advancing initiatives. They also need to incentivize workers to make use of these programs. Take career coaching, for example. This is a service that can make a positive impact long-term. Benefits include accelerated career advancement, higher pay, and greater job satisfaction.
But recent research conducted by Randstad RiseSmart shows a concerning disparity in how men and women see and value career coaching. Nearly half (47%) of men surveyed say a top benefit of coaching is feeling prepared for the next role internally, but just one-third of women feel this way. Furthermore, 42% of men want this service offered to them by their employer, but only 33% of women do.
While the benefits of coaching are clear, it seems that men are still getting greater benefits, indicating that employers may need to take a look at their programs and how implicit bias may be impacting them. Upskilling, coaching, and mentoring are excellent ways to drive parity in the workplace when done effectively, so organizations and their leaders should actively promote and refine these initiatives. There are three effective ways to do this.
1) Identify key skills gaps to create more effective programs
It’s not enough to simply create programs that advance the skills and engagement of people. Companies need to identify where skilling and learning needs are most immediate and prioritize those areas to see a greater return on investment. With limited budgets for career advancement, employers want to make sure that they — and their employees – get the most out of every dollar.
2) Raise awareness about skilling and coaching programs to improve adoption
This can be challenging, but increasing awareness should be a priority for every employer. This means communicating directly, clearly, and regularly with the people who will benefit from career advancement and skills development programs. Often, employees aren’t clear about all the developmental opportunities within their organization and miss out on participating in them. Consider internal communication campaigns that highlight benefits, or feature ambassadors who can evangelize the benefits of skilling and coaching initiatives.
3) Give people time and space to participate
A major barrier to professional development is a lack of time at work to enhance skills and career goals. Simply put, people need breathing room to learn new skills. Make sure those who want support are given the space they will need to focus on learning and development. As a result, these employees will feel valued and engaged while bringing the organization the skills it needs to grow.
Skilling and professional development are critical to the success of every organization as the global economy enters into more uncertain times ahead. To better prepare women, who will likely be disproportionately affected, it’s important to accelerate support to ensure they are ready for any contingency.
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