The Covid-19 pandemic has upended the working lives of many Americans, including those in the marketing and advertising industries due to budget cuts. A report by Forrester predicts that as many as 17,000 agency jobs will be shed in the coming year and that 11 percent will be automated by 2023.
Of course, it’s not just the marketing and advertising industries impacted. Nationwide, unemployment rates spiked to almost 15% in 2020, a number not seen since 1948.
Disproportionately affected by pandemic-related job losses are women: Since February 2020, women have lost close to 6 million net jobs. That number accounts for more than half of the overall net job loss since the beginning of the pandemic.
How are women’s careers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?
As of January 2021, two in five unemployed women had been unemployed for six months or more. Close to 300,000 left the workforce altogether in January alone, choosing to no longer work or look for work.
And as of February 2021, over 2.3 million women had been removed or removed themselves from the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic. The participation of women in the labor force has dropped to just 57 percent – the lowest since 1988.
These numbers don’t tell the entire story; women do. That’s why we surveyed 600 working women about their experience in the workforce during Covid-19, including what might make them leave and what could help make them stay.
How women work during Covid-19
When asked, a majority of respondents (75%) said they have felt supported by their employer since the start of the pandemic, but many still believe there’s room to grow.
While a majority of women with young children are in the workforce and are even the breadwinner, studies show that they feel “a lot of pressure” to be involved mothers. Of our own respondents, 66% said they work between 8 and 12 hours per day and spend anywhere from 2 to 8 hours per day on childcare or housework. Needless to say, finding a balance between working from home and caring for their family can be difficult.
One in four said they haven’t felt supported by their employers during this time, causing burnout for 1 in 4 and higher stress levels for 1 in 3. Because of this, as many as 2 in 5 say that they have considered downsizing their career or leaving the workforce altogether.
We asked our respondents what they need to feel that they can succeed in the current climate. While answers varied, there were some recurring themes: Help with or a better understanding of childcare, the ability to set boundaries, and a better offering of mental health benefits.
Here’s what they said.
An increased understanding of and help with childcare
“Getting to spend more time with my kids and working less than 10 hours a day.”
“More support from my employer and more understanding in general about what working from home entails.”
“On-site child care at work. Working over 8 hours is considered overtime at most childcare facilities, and it gets expensive.”
“Having adequate care for my children while I focus on my work would help me the most in finding work-life balance.”
“Grants for in-home childcare.”
“More pay and flexible hours that can be done with the kids’ schedule.”
“Money for childcare. It’s very expensive, and not something I ever thought I would need with a 1st and 3rd grader.”
“An understanding that because I am home, my child expects more of me, and as a result, work comes second.”
“The respect and time needed to deal with all the things that come along with remote learning. Also, to understand that from time to time, there will be unexpected call outs due to school closure and just dealing with stuff in this new day-to-day life.”
“Having more support from my job when it comes to the needs and obligations regarding my child. Also, being more understandable and supportive of my feelings and concerns.”
“My employer to understand that my production decreasing was due to my children being home.”
“Help from my employer to get better childcare.”
“Flexibility in traditional work hours.”
“Being able to go back to the office, even just a few days a week.”
“If employers could make accommodations and specific changes for us.”
“I need an employer who is sympathetic to my need to have a somewhat flexible schedule.”
“Having a plan is the most helpful thing for me. Unfortunately, Covid destroys plans, so I’ve learned to be flexible. More employer training on flexibility and expectations from the workplace would be helpful.”
“Being able to make my own schedule.”
“Work fewer but longer days, and have an extra day off.”
The ability to unplug
“The ability to turn the computer [and] work phone off at the end of the day and on weekends and holidays.”
“I need more ‘me’ time. Also, help with the workload.”
“I would like to know that it’s okay to unplug at the end of the workday. I think companies should tell remote employees that they still expect them to take breaks and lunch breaks.”
“Learning to turn it off when the end of my day is done. I have found it too easy to keep going and keep working.”
“I think deleting the Teams and Outlook apps from my phone would help quell the urge to keep checking when I’m not supposed to be working.”
“Leadership not sending so many emails after hours or very late at night, which conveys an expectation that individual contributors do the same.”
“Less pressure to work in the evenings.”
“Respect for the start and end of work hours.”
Increased support or resources
“A recognition that even if some people haven’t lost their job, that doesn’t mean they are also not being impacted by the effects of the pandemic as much or more as people who have. Even before the pandemic, people had to work two or three jobs to get by. The pandemic has not made this any better.”
“Mental health resources.”
“I would just like to have a little more emotional support.”
“More emotional support and the offer of therapeutic services would be beneficial.”
“Patience and understanding from colleagues and supervisors.”
“For my employer to be understanding of my safety and my family’s safety and needs during this crisis.”
“It would be most helpful if my employer recognized the challenges that we face during the pandemic. I feel pressured to go to the office even though it isn’t that safe to do so. Additionally, clients often don’t respect pandemic restrictions.”
Help around the house
“Help around the house.”
“My significant other respecting that just because I work from home does not mean that I am available to be running around, doing stuff for him.”
“My children stepping up.”
Methodology: On February 22, 2021, we surveyed 600 working women about their experience working from home. 16% were self-employed; 34% were aged 18-34, 52% were aged 35-54, and 14% were 54 or older. Some responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.