Shaping a More Equal Future

By Deb LaMere, Chief Human Resources Officer of Datasite

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit working women especially hard. In the last 12 months, more than 12 million women have left the U.S. workforce and they accounted for all job losses in December. President Biden has even called the situation a national emergency.

The pandemic has compounded inequalities that many working women, especially mothers, already faced, such as paid maternity leave and affordable child care. Additionally, a review of past economic crises shows that not only are women more affected by these slowdowns, but government and business tend to let efforts to support gender equality slide at these moments. We can’t let this happen. As International Women’s Day approaches next month, now is the time to reboot.

As the chief human resources officer of a fast-growing SaaS-based technology company, I know I don’t have all the answers for how women regain competitiveness, but I have seen how some businesses are using effective strategies to shape a more equal future. Furthermore, these strategies not only support employees, customers, and communities, they also drive innovation.

Be Flexible: The pandemic has created a clash between professional and personal responsibilities, and companies need to recognize how this change has impacted the balance between work and life for employees. Support for employees during this time can go a long way, whether its extra paid time off to recharge, or providing employees with a single bank of time off for employees to use however they see fit.

Recruit diverse talent and leaders: Research shows that companies that focus on recruiting and retaining diverse talent perform better and have more engaged employees. People work more productively and openly when they feel accepted in their environment. Certainly, there has been some progress on this front, thanks to regulation, which has mandated greater gender diversity within companies, especially on corporate boards. However, there are additional ways to ensure greater gender diversity at all levels within a company. Corporate diversity councils, comprised of diverse employees, can help further expand the potential hiring pool and ensure networking opportunities with diverse businesses.

Lean into technology to provide authentic recognition: Business, especially those competing for technology talent, need to understand that employees have a choice when it comes to employers. Celebrating employee achievements is one way to let employees know they are valued. Peer-to-peer recognition tools can simplify and gamify this process, allowing employees to celebrate everything from work anniversaries to project wins, all while connecting with each other to reinforce organizational values. Additionally, companies can note extraordinary employee achievements with simple video messages.

Invest in educational and skills development opportunities: Education is a powerful tool in creating economic prosperity in communities. Companies need to allocate resources not only to diverse groups within their organization, but they must also purse and support access to meaningful educational content by diverse groups in their communities.

Discuss diversity and make it a continuous process: An organization needs to invite discussion with the aim of making everyone feel welcome. This is easier to do and more authentic, when there is consistent, ongoing discussion on diversity. For example, International Women’s Day #ChoosetoChallenge program provides an excellent opportunity to promote and participate in discussions on how to shape a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic. Supporting diversity and inclusion can’t be a singular event or promotion, however. To create change and new dynamics, there must be a continuous, sustained effort. Business needs to continuously support and discuss gender equality and diversity if it wants to succeed.

This is an extraordinary moment to be a leader in business and in our communities. The pandemic, the spirit of innovation, and technology are enabling people to come together in unprecedented ways. We must harness this energy and capability now to shape a more equal future.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.