Is it time to hit the ‘panic button’ as women leave the retail workforce?
Retail has long been a source for jobs for women and in more recent times has become a place for career advancement as companies have realized the business value of aligning their workforces with their most important customers. Chains including Best Buy, Gap, Kohl’s and Sephora have women CEOs leading their businesses at one of the most challenging times in retailing history. Alarm bells are being sounded, however, over concerns that large numbers of women in retail will have to reduce their commitments or leave their jobs entirely as they try to balance work and home responsibilities during the pandemic.
A new study by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org, billed as the largest of its kind, has found that one in four women are considering leaving the workforce or cutting back due to COVID-19. “In a single year, this would wipe out all of the hard-earned gains we’ve seen for women in management — and unwind years of progress toward gender diversity,” authors of the “Women in the Workplace” report write.
The report is based on analyzing data from 317 of the nation’s largest companies and survey responses from more than 40,000 of their female employees.
“If we had a panic button, we’d be hitting it,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and co-founder of LeanIn.Org, in a statement. “Leaders must act fast or risk losing millions of women from the workforce and setting gender diversity back years.”
Women, particularly those with children, are feeling torn by the demands of their personal and professional lives. Many complain about “burn out” as women are three times more likely than men to be responsible for managing household activities.
The study’s authors said that women in senior leadership are 1.5 times more likely to be considering leaving their jobs or cutting back. Nearly 75 percent cite feeling burned out as the biggest reason.
One of the biggest values of having women in leadership roles is that they are generally better than men in bringing other women along, particularly women of color. Sixty percent of women in senior leadership say they publicly acknowledge women of color in the workplace compared to 44 percent of men in similar positions.
Black women face more barriers to advancement than any other group, including bias, outright or unconscious. They report feeling excluded at work and the emotional toll of racial violence events as making it even more difficult.
- Largest Study of Women in Corporate America Finds 1 in 4 Women Are Considering Leaving the Workforce or Downshifting Their Careers Due to Covid-19 – McKinsey & Company/LeanIn.org/PRNewswire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers be concerned about losing female employees burned out by conflicting responsibilities heightened by the coronavirus pandemic? What should companies be doing to address this reality?