In the News

Women Change the Conversation with Vote and Leadership Style

With so much going on in the world today, it’s hard to determine which issue(s) will drive voters in the upcoming midterms, and who they will choose to represent them. Young women (ages 18-29) in battleground states are motivated in large part by women’s rights – namely abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment – and are highly motivated to cast their ballots, supporting initiatives and candidates who reflect their views.

“Despite constant reports in the media on inflation and rising prices as the top issues in this election, abortion and women’s rights are actually the most important for young women as they head to the ballot box,” said Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. 

They’re not alone in their rush to the polls. More women of all ages plan to vote this year, perhaps more than at any time before. AARP reports that an overwhelming majority of women voters aged 50 and over say they are certain to vote this November (94%), and 80% of women voters rate their motivation to vote at a 10, with economic and social issues being top of mind. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in mid-October reports that half of all voters say that they are more motivated to cast a ballot because of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Three-quarters intend to back candidates who support abortion rights, compared to 17% who plan to vote for candidates who want to limit access. In fact, 50% of 1,534 adults KFF polled say they are more eager to vote in the midterms due to the fall of Roe, up from 43% in July and 37% in May. Add to that the fact that 51% of voters in states with abortion bans are more motivated to vote, compared to 32% in states that protect abortion access. These numbers may also account for a number of Republican candidates softening their abortion stances in this election cycle.

It’s important to note that while the fall of Roe may make the current discourse seem like it’s entirely about reproductive freedoms, there’s more to it, a lot more. The Center for Reproductive Rights points out that Roe actually binds together an entire class of personal freedoms, all part of the Constitution’s liberty doctrine. “Roe was a watershed decision, and its place in constitutional doctrine does not begin, or end, with abortion rights. Instead, Roe is one in a line of seminal opinions through which the Supreme Court has developed the liberty doctrine as a source of substantive rights. Those rights encompass abortion, but extend much farther.” In fact, overturning Roe threatens the constitutional foundations for a range of other liberties, and women are alerted to other personal liberties that may be affected and how elected representation might protect those rights.

The Brookings Institute points out that women vote more often than men – in the 2020 presidential election, women constituted 52% of the electorate compared to 48% for men. Brookings also pointed out how in 2020, women cast their ballots for women up and down the ticket, calling it “The Year of the Woman Voter” and wrote that the election was driven by the increasingly overwhelming determination of a significant number of women from every demographic. But as the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University points out, “Women are neither a monolith in their political beliefs, nor a unified voting bloc. Not all women are moved by the same issues and concerns, and cross-cutting identities of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation often pull women voters in different directions, particularly in the hyper-partisan context of American politics.”

We Need Women to Lead

One hundred years ago we saw the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote, six years ago we had a woman running for the highest office in the land, and four years later Kamala Harris made history when she became the first woman, the first woman of color, the first Black person and the first South Asian to be elected Vice President of the United States. When she was sworn in, we – at last – had a woman in the second highest office in the land who understands juggling the demands of a career with the needs of a family, why you need to choose your own reproductive journey, the importance of equal pay, and who values affordable healthcare, childcare and workplace protections. We need women who possess that same understanding at every level and who are empowered to help make your voice heard.

Why women? According to RepresentWomen.org, representation is powerful, and is a fundamental pillar of a functioning democracy. Yet here we are, in 2022, and half of our population is underrepresented, not just nationally, but at every level of government. “Leveling the political playing field clearly benefits women candidates, but what does this do for all women? And what about the other half of the population? As it turns out, advancing towards gender parity not only empowers women, but also strengthens our democracy and serves the entire nation.”

Women also lead differently. RepresentWomen.org notes that while we have had anecdotal evidence of women in political office working together and problem solving, there is also new quantitative data to support those claims. “The challenges and life experiences unique to women inform their policies and leadership styles, meaning they tackle issues from different angles than men do. By better representing women’s perspectives, we can revitalize and diversify policymaking.” In addition, American University finds that women legislators “work harder for their constituents.” Women also tend to prioritize minority needs and focus on family and healthcare more than their male counterparts.

Women also have a different approach to power, and legislate with their eyes on those they serve, benefitting their communities and our nation as a whole. As Gloria Feldt writes in her book No Excuses, “Culture has taught women that power means “power over,” a concept that has been drummed into feminine consciousness through traditional, heavy-handed masculine leadership. When women re-think power as the ‘power to’ accomplish their goals, they want to own it and use it in an entirely different way.”

It’s a given that we still have a way to go when it comes to equal representation. However, as the issues become more gender specific, it is important to have women seated at the table, who can represent our voices and keep the issues that impact us, our families, and communities front and center. Remember, women lead differently, and care deeply about those they serve.  Congresswoman Cori Bush summed it up best when she said in her acceptance speech in 2020 that she loves the people who elected her and those she represents, and it is with that love that she will fight for everyone in her district. This is why it’s crucial to get more women serving in public office. That kind of dedication and perspective completely changes how we are governed. It starts in our communities and at the ballot box when we elect women at every level to lead us, to fight for us, and to build a country with a government that works for us all.

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is a Wakeup Call For Us All

Last week marked Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day the average Black woman in the US finally—after nine extra months of work—made what their white male counterparts did in 2021. It’s important to note that in 2021, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was recognized on August 3, but in 2022 it’s been pushed back by nearly two months. That means the pay gap is widening – fast. September 21 was not a day to celebrate, but a stark reminder of the gross inequities that Black women continue to face and is a wakeup call for us all.

This loss of pay is charted by HerMoney.com, who reported that in 2020, Black women made 63 percent of what white, non-Hispanic men made. However, the pandemic caused full-time Black women workers’ median wage to be reduced to 58 cents in 2021, according to ACS Census data. This widening gap is similar to the levels of the 1960’s and is even more shocking compared to the 83 cents gap of women of all races, reported by The American Association of University Women. Factoring in all races moved Equal Pay Day for the rest of us to March 15 this year, which means that Black women had seven more months to earn the same pay as non-black women in this country where all people are supposed to be equal.

Overall, Black workers have always faced discrimination in the workforce, and Black women are especially vulnerable as they face the double jeopardy of not only being Black, but also being female. That discrimination costs them too, as much as $1,891 per month, $22,692 per year and a staggering loss of $907,680 over a 40-year career, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This means that a Black woman has to work until she’s 80 years old to make what a white man makes by the time he reaches 60. The wage gap starts with girls as young as 16 and worsens as Black women progress through their education and careers. Even though Black women enroll in college at higher rates than men, Black women who have bachelor’s degrees still earn 36% less than white men with bachelor’s degrees on average.

Part of the current disparity can be traced to the pandemic. COVID-19 dramatically shifted the labor market and hit women of color the hardest. Millions of women were forced out of the workforce due to layoffs and increased caregiving demands, with women of color suffering the greatest economic losses, to the tune of 1.4 million jobs, largely in industries in which Black women are overrepresented such as services and hospitality,according to a separate report from the NWLC. The report further states that unequal pay has left Black women less able than their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts to successfully weather the economic fallout of the pandemic. And data shows that economic gains in recent months have not been experienced evenly across groups by race and gender. For example, the unemployment rate for Black women was double digits for 6 months in 2020—including a peak of 16.6% in May 2020—before finally declining. That means Black women have been yet again excluded from full economic recovery, and the unemployment levels they have been facing would be labeled recessionary if they were applied to all workers.

While COVID-19 brought some of the racial and gender issues that Black women face to light, it’s important to remember that these are not new problems. Black women have been working twice as hard for half as much long before COVID-19, the pandemic simply added another layer to the inequities they’ve long faced.

Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told ABC News that the solution for closing the gender pay gap for Black women needs to come from both the government and private sectors. “On the federal level, Mason said the passage of legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act can help promote pay equity and transparency, while enforcement of existing civil rights and equal employment laws can help lower workplace discrimination.”

Black women are in crisis, and the growing pay gap must be reversed. We need to work together to address the disparities and close the pay gap for Black women, while creating a system that supports all women the same way it supports and protects our male counterparts. We need to make sure that women across the board are recognized for their skills and talents and actually get paid fairly for the work they do. Equal pay for all (women and men) needs to be a top priority, and this year’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is a resounding wakeup call – reminding us to take action. We need to take steps to make change for everyone, point out the injustices, and do what we can (all races and genders) personally and politically to make sure that Black women get the equal pay they deserve.

Take The Lead Presents Make Good Trouble

Warning! Your Voting Rights Are at Risk –
Read This ASAP to Make Sure Your Vote Will Be Counted

Have you checked your voter registration?  It’s important to check, even if you’ve voted before.  All over the country there are reports of people who thought they were registered to vote that have recently found out they no longer are.  And voting registration deadlines are coming up QUICK, in some states as early as this month!  Voting is one of the best ways to get your voice heard, and if you aren’t registered, that voice is silenced.

Take the Lead has partnered up with some fantastic organizations to provide you with information on how to register to vote, check your registration, find your polling place and anything else you need to get out to the polls this midterm election.  Voting is leadership, and you have the opportunity to make a real impact in your community.  If you’re with an organization, share Take The Lead’s Voter Toolkit with your group to so they’ll have everything they need come this November.

Check your registration NOW and register to vote here: weall.vote/takethelead

Join Take The Lead online this Tuesday September 20, 2022, at 3pm ET/12pm PT for the Make Good Trouble: How to Be an Effective Citizen Panel on Civic Engagement, coinciding with National Voter Registration Day.  The panel will feature Take The Lead Co-Founder and President Gloria Feldt, When We All Vote Deputy Director of Partnerships Priestley Johnson, Power The Polls Partnerships Marta Hanson and Vote Early Day Project Director Bryce Bennett in a non-partisan discussion on civic engagement, voting as leadership and how YOU can make an impact in your community.  Register for free at taketheleadwomen.com/CivicEngagement.

It’s Pride Month – Time to Secure Equal Rights for All

Pride_MonthIt’s Pride month! Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Pride Month (LGBTQI+ Pride Month) is celebrated annually in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and works to further the cause of equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) Americans. Millions of people around the world take part in the annual month-long celebration, which includes parades, picnics, parties, workshops, and concerts. Memorials are also held each year to commemorate people in the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. Ultimately the purpose of Pride month is to recognize the impact that (LGBTQI+) individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

The Stonewall Uprising was a series of events between police and LGBTQI+ protesters that stretched over six days. It was not the first time police had raided a gay bar, and it was not the first time LGBTQI+ people fought back, but the events that unfolded over the next six days fundamentally changed the nature of LGBTQI+ activism in the United States. Following the Stonewall Uprising, organizers built on the spirit of resistance and organized a march to Central Park the next year, adopting the theme of “Gay Pride” to counteract the prevailing attitude of shame. That march down Christopher Street soon expanded to other cities, with many more joining year after year through the 1970s until Pride became the massive month-long celebration that it is today. It’s important to remember that Pride is a political event, and even though it feels like a party, protests have always been embedded in its very reason for existing. Pride has always been a protest against unjust systems, even in the midst of celebrations, parades, parties, and more.

In a Proclamation on Pride Month 2022, the White House writes that, “Today, the rights of LGBTQI+ Americans are under relentless attack.  Members of the LGBTQI+ community — especially people of color and trans people — continue to face discrimination and cruel, persistent efforts to undermine their human rights.  An onslaught of dangerous anti-LGBTQI+ legislation has been introduced and passed in states across the country, targeting transgender children and their parents and interfering with their access to health care.  These unconscionable attacks have left countless LGBTQI+ families in fear and pain.  All of this compounded has been especially difficult on LGBTQI+ youth, 45 percent of whom seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year — a devastating reality that our Nation must work urgently to address.”

It’s mystifying that homophobia, racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice are still present in 2022, and unbelievable that they’re so deeply embedded in our institutions, and prevalent in the way our society operates. In some parts of the country – and the world – minorities, women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals are increasingly discriminated against, harassed, excluded and marginalized.

This has to change. It is essential to stand up for the rights of all individuals, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. For example, the fight for women’s empowerment is about much more than just equal rights; it is about ensuring that all women have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This includes access to education, healthcare, housing, and employment opportunities. It also means working to end violence against women and girls, and combatting discrimination in all forms. The same issues apply to the fight for LGBTQI+ rights. In fact, joining these important movements is something we all must do to ensure these rights for all human beings.

The LGBTQI+ community has been victimized by decades of discrimination and violence. As President Biden says, “I see you for who you are – deserving of dignity, respect, and support.” Know that we also see you and stand with you.  We support the tireless efforts of activists and celebrate every step of progress. While many countries are finally achieving marriage equality and trans rights are slowly being recognized, we realize that there is much more work to do, and many hard-won laws are constantly in jeopardy. We must work together to change attitudes and break down barriers that prevent full inclusion and acceptance. Only then can we truly achieve equality for all.

Sexism and Racism Can’t Be Ignored

Sexism_RacismJudge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s recent confirmation was a stark reminder that sexism and racism are both alive and well in 2022. She was interrupted, talked over, and questioned about issues and persons far outside of her personal and professional experiences. Her work was disparaged and attacked, and her character called into question. Throughout it all she remained calm, focused, and on point. She was under intense scrutiny, not because of her professional track record; it was due to being a Black woman. By disparaging her solely on the basis of gender and race, senators ironically showed their worst behavior while Judge Jackson responded with a calm, professional demeanor.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the Senate, said that she admired Judge Jackson’s grace during the hearings, despite the harsh questioning. She pointed out how Judge Jackson is imminently qualified, adding that much of what Judge Jackson experienced during her confirmation process felt all too familiar.

“There’s a word, and the word is called misogynoir,” she told Vox. “And that word describes the double whammy that women of color have to face: You’re vulnerable on the issue of gender, and you’re vulnerable on the issue of race.”

While senators continued their attacks, and simultaneously moaned about other recent nominees having been treated unfairly, Judge Jackson remained steadfast, and for the most part unshakable, not giving in to the hysteria, or preconceived judgements surrounding her. Legal scholars Madiba Dennie and Kate Kelly wrote that women are already stereotyped as emotional and unfit for leadership. “Black women in particular have to patiently overperform in order to combat racist tropes of the ‘angry Black woman’.”

Judge Jackson’s experience with sexism and racism were on global display, but she is not alone in her experiences. Women, especially Black women, across the country still deal with implicit and explicit bias and outright sexism and racism on a daily basis. How does this happen? Especially now, in 2022? Actually little has changed in this century. Leadership roles in both business and politics are still occupied heavily by men. Congress is still more than three-fourths male, and just 7% of Fortune 500 corporations are led by a female CEO.

Oddly enough, attitudes have changed about which gender can do the job. The General Social Survey at the University of Chicago reports that the number of Americans who think men are better suited than women for politics has decreased from 44% to just 13% in the past five decades, and today, only 4% of Americans say they won’t support a woman for president.

Leisa Meyer, a historian at the College of William and Mary, says, “Women aren’t only judged differently for the same behaviors; they’re also still thought of as more emotional, worse leaders, and less apt to make hard decisions.” Christian Science Monitor staff writer Noah Robertson writes that while many women hold similar gender stereotypes, those perceptions tend to be held most strongly by men.

Black women also have to deal with perceptions surrounding their race. While Judge Jackson may have been the first (and only) Black woman to be nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court, many Black women in corporate America often find themselves as the first and/or “Only” in different organizational settings. According to Lean In’s State of Black Women in Corporate America report, in meetings and other common workplace scenarios, “54% of Black women are often the only or one of the only people of their race/ethnicity in the room. Black women having this ‘Only’ experience are significantly more likely than white women in the same situation to feel closely watched and to think that their actions reflect positively or negatively on other people like them.

In addition, “40% of Black women say they need to provide more evidence of their competence, compared to 28% of white women and 14% of men. Black women are (also) more likely than other women to hear people express surprise when they demonstrate strong language skills or other abilities.”

Yet most Americans remain in the dark about this blatant racism. In fact, 53% are not aware of the pay gap between Black women and everyone else, although, on average, Black women are paid 38% less than white men and 21% less than white women. One Black woman described the added pressure by saying, “I feel like I have to represent the entire race. I need to come across as more than proficient, more than competent, more than capable. I have to be ‘on’ all the time. Because in the back of someone’s mind, they could be judging the entire race based on me.”

Black women have always been on the front lines for gender and racial equity, and now are also confronting anti-Black violence. It’s important to understand what Black women are up against, and end this undeserved bias and violence, and truly achieve equity for all. In order for that to happen, we have to work together. Period. Meyer contends that women overall, are less cohesive as a group. However, as Dr. Nancy writes in In This Together, that doesn’t have to be the case. There is so much we can achieve if we embrace our collective strength. Trudy Bourgeois writes that, “History teaches us that when women come together and support each other, we can change the world.” If these past couple of years (especially) have taught us anything, it is that it is definitely time to come together and support each other unconditionally, because without unity we can’t even stand up against a virus, much less a senator who keeps their job in spite of bad behavior. It is time for women (and men) of every color to come together as “us” and even include those who disparage our fitness to lead, lift everyone up and follow Judge Jackson’s example to calmly, steadfastly eliminate sexism and racism to truly create a better world.

Ketanji Brown Jackson Makes History

Ketanji_Brown_JacksonHistory was made on April 7, 2022, when a bipartisan group of Senators confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the United States. The momentous vote was presided over by Vice President Kamala Harris, our nation’s first Black female vice president, and witnessed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Black female lawmakers sat together along the walls, while young people filled the visitor galleries, all present to witness the event. Vice President Harris called for the final vote on Jackson’s nomination with a smile on her face, and the chamber broke into loud applause when she was confirmed.

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock said before the vote that “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s improbable journey to the nation’s highest court is a reflection of our own journey through fits and starts toward the nation’s highest ideals.”

“She embodies the arc of our history,” he added. “She is America at its best. That I believe in my heart after meeting with her in my office, talking to folks who I trust who know her and hearing her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

It was a bumpy road to the Senate chamber for Judge Jackson, and much of the nation. Under intense scrutiny for four days, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee attacked her as a progressive activist who was soft on crime, glossing over her exemplary qualifications and experience, even asking her how she would define the word “woman.” President Biden denounced those behaviors saying Judge Jackson displayed “the incredible character and integrity she possesses.”

“To be sure I have worked hard to get to this point in my career, and I have now achieved something far beyond anything my grandparents could have possibly ever imagined, but no one does this on our own,” Judge Jackson said in her remarks on the White House South Lawn following her historic confirmation. “In the poetic words of Dr. Maya Angelou, ‘I do so now while bringing the gifts my ancestors gave. I am the dream and the hope of the slave.’”

Judge Jackson thanked the Democratic Senate leaders, numerous White House staff involved in her confirmation process, and the many people who helped her along the way. “As I take on this new role, I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. We have come a long way toward perfecting our Union.”

“In my family it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. And it is an honor – the honor of a lifetime – for me to have this chance to join the court,” she added. “To promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward into the future.”

Ketanji Brown JacksonJudge Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated to the nation’s highest court in its 233-year history. Born in Washington, DC, she grew up in Miami, Florida. Her parents attended segregated primary schools, then attended historically black colleges and universities, and her father attended law school. Both started their careers as public school teachers and became leaders and administrators in the Miami-Dade Public School System. She testified at her confirmation hearing that one of her earliest memories was watching her father study law. “He had his stack of law books on the kitchen table while I sat across from him with my stack of coloring books.”

Judge Jackson stood out as a high achiever throughout her childhood, serving as “mayor” of her junior high, and student body president of her high school. As class president, Judge Jackson was quoted in the 1988 Miami Palmetto Senior High School yearbook as saying, “I want to go into law and eventually have a judicial appointment.”

However, when she told her high school guidance counselor she wanted to attend Harvard, she was warned not to set her “sights so high.” She remained focused and in fact, she not only made her way to Harvard, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Today, Judge Jackson lives with her husband Patrick – who she married in 1996 – and their two daughters, in Washington, DC.

Prior to her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Judge Jackson clerked for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit and for Justice Breyer. She worked in private practice before joining the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2003. Then she became a federal public defender in 2005 before her confirmation as a U.S. district court judge in 2007. Just last year, the Senate confirmed Jackson 53-44 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Judge Jackson has set the bar – no pun intended – and is serving as an example to young girls around the world. You have to see it to be it, and she’s “being” it with grace, dignity, and deserving qualifications galore. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker summed it up best when he said to Judge Jackson during her confirmation hearing, “You deserve to be here, at this place, at this time, and you have made us all so proud…”

Burnout Behind Job Exodus for Many Women

BurnoutDuring last week’s Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference, the topic shifted to women leaving the workplace first during the pandemic, and now as part of the great resignation – which isn’t over yet as nearly two-thirds of workers are hunting for a new job, and nearly nine out of ten company executives are seeing higher than normal turnover in their organizations. Looking at reasons for the exodus, Michele Meyer-Shipp, who most recently served as the first highest ranking woman at Major League Baseball in the role of Chief People & Culture Officer, felt that for many women the cause was simple – burnout.

She’s definitely on to something. A recent report from Limeade, a software firm that surveyed 1,000 full-time U.S. workers, found that in fact burnout (40%) is the main reason respondents left their job, followed by organizational changes (34%), lack of flexibility and not feeling valued (20%), and insufficient benefits (19%). A June survey of 2,800 workers from global staffing firm Robert Half further backed that up and found that more than four in ten employees (44%) say they are more burned out on the job today compared to a year ago. And last but not least, a study by Asana of 13,000 knowledge workers across eight countries found that 71 percent had experienced burnout in the past year.

As if living through a global pandemic weren’t enough, the workplace shifted as the world adapted to shutdowns, surges, and all other associated pandemic issues. Being in the office, at home, back in the office, or a hybrid of both further taxed an already stressed system and women oftentimes bore the brunt of those never-ending changes. Meyer-Shipp was quick to point out that while no one size fits all, a lot (a LOT) of women are burned out as a result. “As people started to leave the workplace, women were picking up extra workloads and carrying the weight for their teams, their departments, their organizations and literally got to that point where it’s like, ‘enough’. It’s like, ‘seriously people like I’m not doing this anymore.’ I think we had a lot of that.”

Granted, many women and men were burned out before the pandemic, but during those first months they had time to think, time to re-assess, and time to plot a move forward that didn’t include the stress that was increasingly associated with their jobs.

Before you blame the employee for burnout because of their resilience, backbone, yoga practice – or lack thereof – you have to realize that they have little to do with the root causes of the condition. According to the foremost expert on burnout, Christina Maslach, social psychologist and professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, we are attacking the problem from the wrong angle. “Categorizing burnout as a disease was an attempt by the WHO (World Health Organization) to provide definitions for what is wrong with people, instead of what is wrong with companies. When we just look at the person, what that means is, ‘Hey we’ve got to treat that person.’ ‘You can’t work here because you’re the problem.’ ‘We have to get rid of that person.’ Then, it becomes that person’s problem, not the responsibility of the organization that employs them.”

However, a Gallup survey actually found that the top reasons for burnout are unfair treatment, unmanageable workloads, a lack of role clarity, a lack of communication and support, and unreasonable time pressures – all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. That furthers Maslach’s assertions that the root causes of burnout do not lie with the individual, but with the workplace as a whole. Current events such as the great resignation are not happening as a result of people not wanting to work, but instead prove that they’re burned out and need more workplace support.

Emphasizing the need for honesty and transparency from managers and employees, Brandon Greiner, vice president of operations for MedExpress, says, “An important first step in keeping stress in check is for managers to regularly check in with employees and encourage them to provide honest feedback regarding their workload, work environment and responsibilities.”

Lindsay Lagreid, senior advisor at Limeade, takes that further by saying that managers need to also start asking better questions. “Asking ‘How ya doing?’ and accepting answers like ‘I’m fine’ or ‘hanging in there’ aren’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, try more specific questions like:
*Have you been able to complete your projects on time? If not, why do you think that is?

*Do you have the resources you need to get your work done? If not, what else would you need?

*What can I do to make your job easier?”

We are still navigating unprecedented times and burnout, like so many other issues this pandemic has brought to the forefront, needs to be recognized and explored. That means we need to talk about it, look for ways to address it, and ultimately define ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keep in mind the fact that collectively taking action on this issue at every level is crucial to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. Ultimately, this is a time of reinvention and change, and in order to hold on to top performing women and men, the workplace not only needs to recognize the issue, but make some changes of its own.

Standing With the Women of Afghanistan

Stand_With_Afghan_WomenIn Afghanistan, the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops last month, signaled an end to much of the progress that women in the country had made, and many of the rights they had come to enjoy. While Taliban leadership assured citizens that they would allow women to work and pursue education, the hard-handed Taliban rule of the 90’s, left many Afghans afraid that those pledges would not be fulfilled. If the past couple of weeks are any indication, those fears are well founded.

Today there are no women in the Taliban’s newly named interim cabinet, and the country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs was abolished. And although women can continue to study in universities, classrooms will now be gender-segregated, Islamic dress is compulsory, and subjects being taught are under review. All of this despite the fact that over the past twenty years millions of Afghan girls and women were able to attend school, hold a job and help shape their destiny for the first time. After years of not being able to leave their homes without a male chaperone, their educational opportunities allowed them to become judges, teachers, journalists, police officers, and government ministers. However, the Taliban recently told working women to stay at home, admitting they were not safe in the presence of the militant group’s soldiers, which means Afghan women are now effectively locked out of participation and leadership in the communities they helped form.

As if that were not enough, Afghan women and girls have been banned from playing sports as the deputy head of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, said women’s sport was considered neither appropriate nor necessary. According to NPR, ads showing women’s faces have also been blacked out and Taliban members have been erasing street art and murals that often conveyed public service messages.

How have the women of Afghanistan responded to these actions (and many more)? Loudly. Last week, dozens of Afghan women demonstrated in the western city of Herat to demand their rights to employment and education. This week Hannah Bloch writes at NPR.com that “Day after day, Afghan women have taken to the streets in groups large and small to protest against Taliban rule, the regime’s new curbs on their rights and Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan.” In Kabul, they demanded equal rights, and women in government and others demanded “azadi” or freedom. In response, the Taliban have at times used force — wielding whips, beating women with batons, pointing guns and firing weapons into the air.

This situation is only days old and events are continuing to unfold at a horrifying pace. Gloria Steinem reached out and asked supporters to join her in an Emergency Response for Afghan Women. Donor Direct Action, which she co-convened with South African Judge Navi Pillay, supports a front-line women’s group in Afghanistan that has protected Afghan women and children since 1999. She and Jessica Neuwirth recently spoke with the leadership of this group and said, “It was heartbreaking to hear first-hand from Kabul about the scale of this crisis and the utter lack of resources to respond. These women are fearless and inspiring, and they need our help. That is why I am convening this Emergency Response for Afghan women.” Women for Women International is providing emergency support for Afghan women, The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security is taking action to help protect Afghan women and human rights leaders, as well as many, many other organizations.

Write letters, donate if you can, raise awareness and lend your voice. We need to stand together with the women of Afghanistan and help them any way we can.

A Hybrid Return to Work May Be the Best Approach

Hybrid_Return_to_WorkAfter a year and a half hiatus, many offices were on track to open up in the coming months. While the current rise of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has scuttled some of those return to the office plans, many companies are pushing ahead and getting ready to welcome their workforce, ready or not, and get things back to normal. However, the new normal for many may not include long commutes, dry cleaning bills, desk drive-bys, and meetings for meetings’ sake. Instead, it may include a newfound work-life balance, the flexibility that many have come to depend on and the decreased need for childcare, not to mention increased personal time, money and time savings, and an improved quality of life.

According to recent surveys by Deloitte and McKinsey, as many as 1 in 4 corporate women have said they are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether. Deloitte also found that nearly 3 in 5 women planned to leave their employers in two years or less, and they cited a lack of work-life balance as their top reason for wanting out.

That lack of balance is further supported in a new study by Perceptyx, an employee listening and people analytics platform, which found that compared to six months ago, 48% of women are less likely to want to return to their physical workplace full-time. The study also reported that women are not alone. In fact, roughly 24% of both women and men would prefer to adopt a hybrid working arrangement after COVID-19. Men, however, intend to spend 3-4 days per week in the physical workplace, whereas women intend to spend only 2-3 days per week. In addition, recent Gallup data shows that 10 million Americans are projected to be seriously considering the move to freelance to hold on to their newfound flexibility.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that work from home is not only possible, it’s preferable for many of us. Productivity stayed high, and in many instances improved. In fact, one study estimates the work-from-home boom will lift productivity in the U.S. economy by 5%, mostly because of savings in commuting time. That means, when it comes to returning to work, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A hybrid approach may be exactly what’s needed to appeal to those on the fence and serve as a way for employers to stop talent loss and improve their bottom lines. In a recent survey of 1,000 adults conducted in February by the workplace technology company Envoy, 48 percent of those surveyed said they wanted a hybrid schedule, of in-person and remote work, with 41 percent saying they were even willing to take a small pay cut to make that happen.

While the hybrid approach may serve to keep some women in the workplace or entice those that have left to return, it could also have an impact on women’s progress. Susan Lund, a partner at McKinsey and leader of the McKinsey Global Institute recently told NPR that, “for companies going down this hybrid approach, there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for. And one is that you end up with a two-tier workforce, that the people – it’s always the same people in the room making the decisions and other people are on Zoom or video conference, and that those on video conference end up being passed over for promotion, not considered for different opportunities because they’re not there. So companies are being thoughtful. The ones who are pursuing some kind of hybrid approach are thinking through these issues. And how do we avoid that to keep a level playing field?”

SHRM reports that Prudential Financial, Citigroup, Google and many others have been paying attention to what their employees want, and are not only looking at the hybrid model, but also looking at other work-practice changes meant to support a healthier work-life balance. These changes, especially coupled with access to paid leave and childcare, can go a long way towards keeping women in the workplace full-time, rather than dropping to part-time or leaving the workforce entirely.

A successful hybrid model is, however, a balancing act, and will require a lot of attention and communication, especially in the initial stages. Tsedal Neeley, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Remove Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere, is optimistic, and recently discussed the many issues that are coming up as the nature of work changes with Recode and said, “Guidelines and the policies will settle. Competencies around flexible workplaces will rise. Individual managers will level up to figure out how to lead a distributed workforce. People will be more agile with using digital tools, so things like tech exhaustion will go away. After people experience the hybrid format, they will settle into a rhythm that really works for them. And I think that we’ll see more remote than in-person days.”

Ultimately, we need to make work work for women and make a return doable. Those who plan to continue working from home, whether in a hybrid or full-time capacity, must be proactive and regularly connect with management, as well as sponsors and mentors. They also need to establish clear performance expectations and understand measures necessary in the new-normal to achieve advancement and promotions. Collectively taking action on every level is crucial to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement, and if a hybrid model is how we make that happen, we need to look for ways to define and embrace it. Study after study shows that having more women in the workforce is good for women’s equality and their company’s bottom line. It’s time for women and our male allies to come together like never before and find solutions that will redefine the workplace now, and after this crisis passes.

Why We Must Help Women Get Back to Work

Back_to_WorkIt should be obvious why we must help women get back to work. The past 16 months have illuminated women’s fragile hold on the delicate balance of income-producing work and unpaid work at home. COVID-19’s devastating effect on the world has especially impacted women. In the US, women lost more than 5 million jobs between the start of the pandemic and November 2020. V, formerly Eve Ensler, writes in The Guardian, “Because much of women’s work requires physical contact with the public – restaurants, stores, childcare, healthcare settings – theirs were some of the first to go.”

The pandemic has intensified women’s existing challenges exposing the systemic inequalities that threaten not only women in the workplace, but our continued ability to thrive. V also writes that “Covid has revealed the fact that we live with two incompatible ideas when it comes to women. The first is that women are essential to every aspect of life and our survival as a species. The second is that women can easily be violated, sacrificed and erased.”

Many governmental and private organizations are scrambling for optimal ways to respond to the pandemic’s damaging effects on women. As the pandemic restrictions ease up and people begin to return to work, many women remain on the sidelines. In fact, there are 1.8 million fewer women in the labor force today than before COVID, and with widespread labor shortages, labor economists are worried.

Stephanie Aaronson, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution recently told NPR that the reason for so many women remaining unemployed is due to a complex mix of factors. “Some of those could start to subside as the economy recovers, and jobs come back, and schools reopen, and the health situation improves.”

“But a return to pre-pandemic levels could take a long time, in part because women tend to stick with the decisions they’ve made.” Aaronson says. “A mother who decided to stay home with her children in the pandemic may end up out of the workforce for years.”

That’s not good for the economy or the future advancement of women. According to the National Women’s Law Center, it will take 28 straight months of job gains to get women back to where they were in the labor force before the pandemic started. The US Chamber of Commerce recently reported that “there were a record 8.1 million job openings in the U.S. in March 2021 and about half as many available workers for every open job across the country as there have been over the past 20 years.” The Chamber calls the crisis “the most critical and widespread challenge facing businesses.” And its President and CEO, Suzanne Clark said that “keeping our economy going requires we fill these jobs.”

Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari recently told CNN getting people – especially women – back into the labor force is key to keep the recovery going. “We have to find a way to bring [women] back to work. This is about our economic potential. It is certainly about fairness about women and families. But it is also about our economic potential as a nation.”

The question now is, how can we best support women and help them get back to work? While access to affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and flexibility may be the obvious answers, there is more we can do within the workplace to change the corporate culture and make a return more manageable and appealing to women. Jewelle Bickford, Sandra Beach Lin and Ellen Kullman, founders of the Paradigm for Parity Coalition, recently wrote in Entrepreneur that many of the problems we’re facing now are tied to trends that existed long before COVID-19, from disproportionate home care responsibilities to greater representation in low-wage employment, to long-standing gender inequalities in corporate leadership.

To reverse those trends and make a return doable for women, Bickford, Beach Lin and Kullman recommend we should engage in unconscious bias training to understand, own and address both conscious and unconscious biases that prevent women from succeeding. They also recommend that we increase the number of women in senior roles – which makes perfect sense because when women advance, they tend to take other women with them. The writers also recommend identifying women of potential and providing them with sponsors, mentors, and the tools they need to advance and succeed.

Ultimately, we need to collectively take action on every level to get and keep women employed and in the pipeline for advancement. And we need to think big-picture and develop plans to regain the progress we have lost during this crisis. By fixing the conspicuous inequities in the system that have always held women back, we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and finally get women back to work in leadership positions that don’t get erased during the next disaster.  Equity for women creates prosperity and stable system that is able to weather future crises in ways that protect us all—men and women—together.

 

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