It feels surreal that we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of when our world went into lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. March doesn’t only represent one-year of remote work and quarantining, March is also Women’s History Month – commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.
Yet, as we come together to celebrate the incredible progress that we’ve made in women’s rights and equality, moving forward is impossible without acknowledging the challenges women have faced and the lessons learned along the way. It’s important that we recognize how this past year has brought its own unique challenges. One of the high points include Kamala Harris being named the 49th vice president of the United States – the United States’ first female vice president, the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history and the first African American and first Asian American vice president. However, the recession and unemployment rates that have disproportionally impacted women during the pandemic. They have had a greater impact on industries led by women (restaurants, retail, hospitality, healthcare) and shutdowns caused schools and daycare centers to close (leaving women to take on the majority of child-care responsibilities).
These are just a few reasons to honor Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day and the strong women that our organization is led by. PAN has always put an emphasis on supporting female colleagues and making sure their voices are heard. Here are our agency’s hopes for 2021 as it relates to female empowerment, driven by lessons learned over the past year.
While most businesses shifted to a remote work model in the beginning of the pandemic, that was just the first step in workplaces embracing a more flexible future. Continuing to offer flexible options for all employees – whether it’s the number of days in office or allowing for flexible hours – and making it part of your policies will help tip the scales back to more support for the women at your organization.
Encouraging staff to use these options in a post-pandemic world is also vital. While this only works for jobs where you are behind a desk, rather than in-person, it’s still an important step. To put it into perspective: 865,000 women left the workforce in September – this is four times the number of men who left when virtual schooling became our new normal. This shows additional evidence that women are shouldering the bulk of family obligations. Encouraging a more flexible model will allow women, particularly working mothers, to rejoin the workforce.
In the spirit of this day, we’ve asked some of the women at PAN to share what it’s like to juggle work and motherhood during the pandemic. Here’s what they had to say:
The pandemic had a dramatic impact on the mental health of individuals worldwide. The fear of COVID-19’s impact on financial security, housing and employment concerns, paired with social isolation understandably lead to an increase in emotional and psychological challenges. According to the US Census Bureau, more than 42 percent of people surveyed reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December, an increase from 11 percent the previous year.
Unfortunately, recent studies show that the pandemic may be taking a bigger toll on women’s mental health than on men’s. Mental health concerns like depression, anxiety symptoms and sleep problems were all more common in women than in men this past year. It’s critical for businesses to consider mental health challenges for all employees, but offering support is another way to help women in particular.
Some examples of what organizations can do include building an open and accepting culture, offering clear information about where to go or whom to ask for support, and investing in training for managers and leaders within the organization. Modifying policies and practices (like flexibility mentioned above), and checking in with one another regularly are also all-important steps.
UN Women announced this as the theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021 (IWD 2021). This theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While there have been challenges this year, this is a moment of change. People are recognizing the inequalities that exist, and are doing their part to support and uplift each other – both in the workplace and beyond.
“The other official theme this year is #ChoosetoChallenge – a campaign to highlight how a challenged world is an alert world.”
The other official theme this year is #ChoosetoChallenge – a campaign to highlight how a challenged world is an alert world. They are asking individuals if they will choose to challenge and call out inequality, encourage further people to commit to helping forge an inclusive world, call out bias, question stereotypes and more.
We’re lucky at PAN to have incredible female leadership, and male colleagues who celebrate women’s achievements. We encourage all our staff, clients, partners and more to help create an inclusive world.
Celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day proudly this year by commemorating the incredible women who have paved the way to a brighter future.