In the wake of COVID-19 and remote learning for the majority of American children, female workers left the workforce in record numbers. That mass exodus also depleted a massive amount of money from the U.S. economy: an estimated $800 billion, according to Rebecca Henderson, CEO, global business, and executive board member of Randstad, who delivered the opening keynote address at the Women in HR Tech Summit at Tuesday’s HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas.
What it means for HR leaders
Prior to COVID, women were making great strides toward equity in the workplace. After decades of advocacy, Henderson said, women were increasingly achieving higher-level jobs and companies were recognizing the value of pay equity, with emerging technologies creating the opportunity for even more transparency into the gender pay gap.
Unfortunately, that progress was fragile, Henderson said.
She asked the Women in HR Tech audience for a show of hands of people who know a woman who has left the workforce since the pandemic started; the vast majority of attendees in the Mandalay Bay conference room raised their hands.
Along with the $800 billion in lost income, which in turn is not being invested into the national economy, the exodus of working women has taken a toll on many Americans’ personal lives. Apart from the strain on finances, stress and burnout are affecting women and women leaders at alarming rates, with many reporting that they feel exhausted all the time, said Henderson. There has also been an uptick in cases of domestic violence.
The multi-faceted nature of the problem is something that HR leaders need to bear in mind as they strategize for diversifying their workforce for a post-COVID world.
“There is rising stress in households,” she said, “and women are bearing brunt of this.”