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Women @ Work: A global outlook

How employers can support women and create more high-trust, inclusive cultures during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

Global survey finds that 51% of women are less optimistic about their career prospects than before the pandemic.

Our survey respondents are clear about what needs to be done to reverse the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on working women. As organisations look to rebuild their workplaces, those that prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion in their policies and culture and provide tangible support for the women in their workforces will be more resilient against future disruptions. Additionally, they will lay the groundwork needed to propel women and gender equity forward in the workplace.

— Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People & Purpose Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have devastating and disproportionate impacts on women’s lives and careers

We surveyed 5,000 working women across 10 countries to hear directly from them about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of gender equality in the workplace. Respondents varied across age groups and the data from the survey has also enabled analysis through the intersectional lenses of race and ethnicity and sexual orientation and gender identity.

Women indicated that they are more stressed and discouraged since the pandemic began as they take on an increasing amount of responsibility at home and in their careers. Women continue to face a broad range of non-inclusive behaviours without adequate support from their direct managers and employers at large. Many employers have policies and procedures for reporting bias and discrimination, but few employers have cultivated cultures of trust where women feel comfortable voicing concerns without fearing negative career impacts.

The pandemic and employers’ unsatisfactory responses to the comprehensive pressures on women are forcing many women to make difficult decisions about whether to find another job or even leave the workforce altogether. This is a critical moment for employers to understand the changes that women want—and need—to have happen soon. We hope that this report helps organisations minimise the long-term consequences of the pandemic and rebuild workplaces with more inclusive, high-trust cultures that are fit for the future.

Read the Deloitte Insights Synopsis

Key Findings

Our global survey shows that women are more stressed and pessimistic about their careers than before the pandemic. The pandemic has negatively impacted women’s wellbeing and relationship with their employer, but longstanding non-inclusive workplace cultures also continue to stall women’s career progression.

Through the pandemic, women have taken on more responsibilities at home and at work while not receiving adequate support from their employers. Nearly 80% of surveyed women indicate that their workload at work has increased as a result of the pandemic. At the same time, 66% of women report having the greatest responsibilities for home tasks and more than half of those with children say they handle the majority of childcare duties. The mounting responsibilities are taking a clear toll on their physical health, mental wellbeing, and career ambitions.

From disparaging remarks about their gender to their judgment being questioned, women continue to face a broad spectrum of non-inclusive behaviors at work. Women of color are more likely to experience comments about their communication style while LGBT+ women were almost four times more likely than other women to experience jokes of a sexual nature. Women who have experienced non-inclusive behaviors are even more likely to consider leaving their employers and the workforce altogether in this time of high stress and uncertainty.

Most women are discouraged by their employers’ commitment to gender equality. However, approximately four percent of women from our survey indicate that their organisations have built inclusive, flexible and high-trust cultures that support women. This group of organisations that we have deemed the “gender equality leaders” have created environments where women feel confident reporting non-inclusive behaviours, feel supported by employers in balancing work and home commitments, and believe that their careers are progressing as fast as they would like. The benefits of an inclusive culture are clear and inspiring. Women who work at “leader” organisations report higher levels of productivity, mental wellbeing and job satisfaction than women at “lagging” organisations.

Women have voiced their concerns about the pressures they continue face at home and at work. Employers must act now to cultivate “everyday” inclusive workplaces with gender equality in mind. By normalising flexible working, committing to gender representation at the senior level, and providing fulfiling development opportunities for women, among other clear actions, employers have an opportunity to rebuild workplaces that are prepared for the future.

Global survey finds that 51% of women are less optimistic about their career prospects than before the pandemic

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Progress around gender equality is at risk during the pandemic

Our survey shows how women’s wellbeing has been severely impacted across a range of measures from mental health to job satisfaction. The pandemic has had an even greater impact on the careers of women in underrepresented groups. A small group of “gender equality leaders” have taken steps to create positive ‘everyday’ cultures for women, but most employers have a long way to go to foster inclusive and empowering environments where women can thrive—and want to stay.

Click on the each of the tabs below to view comparisons between the “gender equality leaders” and “lagging organisations.”

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