The Labor Crisis and Getting Women Back To Work

Many companies have struggled to get women back into the workforce. Business leaders share the incentives they are using to attract and retain female professionals.


Air Date: March 3, 2022

Moderator: Carol Juel, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology and Operating Officer, Synchrony

Featured Guests: Spring Lacy, VP, Head of Learning & Development, HR Talent & Capabilities, Prudential, Julie Lukas, Divisional Vice President, Global Human Resources Services and Technology, Abbott, Glenn Williams, Chief Diversity Officer & VP, HR, Qualcomm

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear women are still dealing with the aftereffects of massive shifts in the labor market. As the world continues to adapt to a new normal, women are leaving the workforce at record rates and reports of burnout are skyrocketing. While data shows that male workers regained all the jobs they had lost since February 2020, women are still short about 1.8 million jobs.

To further shed light on these issues, the U.S. Chamber, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, hosted the 12th Annual International Women’s Day Forum. During a panel discussion, employers from various industries discussed how employers can better support women heading back to work amidst the Great Resignation and the ongoing pandemic.

Encourage a Better Work-Life Balance Among Women Workers

The pandemic has caused many workers to reevaluate their work-life priorities, resulting in employees leaving jobs at record rates. These employees are “voting with their feet” by choosing where they want to work as employers seek talent, said Spring Lacy, VP and head of Learning & Development and HR Talent & Capabilities at Prudential.

“I think the pandemic has caused people to reevaluate their own values … and with that, what they're expecting from their employers,” said Lacy. “And so employees are … either walking away from careers altogether or moving to places where they can have a more value-aligned quality of life.”

These values include flexibility in work schedules, especially as women who may be mothers or caregivers.

“I think more specifically, talking about women, our observation is that women are really reassessing the role of work in their lives,” explained Julie Lukas, divisional vice president of Global Human Resources Services and Technology at Abbott. “I think that women are feeling that they don't want their personal and their family priorities to be seen as place barriers.”

Provide Flexibility for Caregivers

As COVID cases decline and employees trickle back to work, some employers are taking into account the hesitations employees have about going back to the office. For example, Prudential is not yet back in the office due to the challenges women are facing as caregivers, explained Lacy.

“A lot of that decision to delay our return has been guided by [questions] like ‘what are the local school districts where we have offices doing?’” she explained. “[We’re] recognizing that it's really difficult for primary caregivers who oftentimes are women to leave and come to work when you actually have to facilitate virtual learning happening at home.”

“From an employer perspective, it allows us to be responsive to what people are asking for in the market,” continued Lacy. “And again, primary caregivers are demanding flexibility from their employers — and [providing flexible responses has] given us a chance to do that.”

Create a Culture That Promotes Inclusivity and Safety

Promoting a safe company culture is key to recruiting and retaining women’s talent. Lukas believes that inclusive culture can be found by returning to the workplace.

“We recognize that there's a lot of value that comes from working in person, especially when it comes to things that are really important for us as a business innovation, collaboration development [and] our company culture,” she explained.

Lacy stated that even with certain policies and business practices in place to usher in top talent, companies need to emulate a place of safety in order to create a company culture women want to work in.

“I've been at companies where those policies existed and I might not have been comfortable taking advantage of them because the culture didn't necessarily support what the policies may have dictated,” said Lacy.


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