4 tips to ensure female talent stays amid the pandemic

As many companies have moved employees toward working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains to be seen how the trend will ultimately affect their ability to keep female talent. 

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Colleen Ammerman, director of the Gender Initiative at Boston-based Harvard Business School, and Boris Groysberg, the Richard P. Chapman professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, assess the move toward remote work and whether it will benefit women. 

A recent paper by a group of economic experts argues the effects of the public health crisis may essentially promote gender equality in workplaces and provide more opportunities for working mothers seeking flexible arrangements. While Ms. Ammerman and Mr. Groysberg hope this occurs, they said they are unsure that will be the case because barriers to women's career progression are now magnified. To "prevent the careers of your women employees from becoming collateral damage during this crisis" the authors said, they recommend that companies:

1. Stay aware of bias against working mothers. Women could potentially be viewed as less competent when their caregiving role is visible. Pay attention to this bias as more women work from home and ensure an environment where that bias is not accepted. 

2. Reduce pressure. Acknowledge and accommodate childcare needs and other challenges working parents are facing amid the pandemic. At the same time, make priorities and business needs clear.

3. Ensure gender equity with virtual meetings. Do not leave women and their viewpoints out of virtual meetings. Before and during these meetings, ensure everyone who should have input is included.

4. Include women in digital spaces. Do not exclude women from virtual events. This involves reminding people to share their views with everyone during a virtual meeting and including women in other digital spaces, such as special Slack channels and FaceTime happy hours.


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