Career
Sep 6, 2021

Women in Corporations Series: Work-life balance: Working & raising children (simultaneously)

Challenge #1

Work-life balance: Working & raising children (simultaneously)

Did you know that only 6.4% of fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs?

There are more women running fortune 500 companies today than any other time in history, but the upward trend is painfully slow. Indeed, corporations such as IBM, General Motors, Mondelēz International, and most recently Mrs. Maren Graf, appointed as the first woman to the board of directors for Skoda, all have women in top executive positions. However, it is simply not enough.

But why is this the case? What are the challenges that women in corporations face and why are they not rising to the top more? What can corporations do to change these projections?

Welcome to a 3-part blog series on the top 3 challenges women face in the corporate world. We will begin by looking at the biggest challenge working women face in times of the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by some practical solutions to the problem.

Challenge #1

Work-life balance: Working & raising children (simultaneously)

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the workplace on its head. If women didn’t have it difficult enough, the current circumstances have made things even worse whereas everyone is struggling to do their job with ease and a disproportionate share of housework and childcare is still falling on women. Raising children whilst having a career at the same time is one of the most well-known hurdles to be crossed by women when aiming to climb the corporate ladder. In a recent survey done by Deloitte (2020), 82% of women with corporate jobs reported their work-life balance as the toughest challenge in times of Covid, and nearly 70% of women who have experienced these disruptions are concerned their career growth may be limited as a result. Women who want to progress in their career often worry about what will happen to their position if they get pregnant. Not to mention, the challenges of catching up with job duties when they do come back from maternity leave - leaving female employees to work even harder to catch up.

Due to such high work and family demands, women with young children experienced more role blurring and lowered their psychological well-being. This ultimately led to more burnouts and decreased level of marital satisfaction. Many women have also been forced to opt out of accepting senior roles as they did not have the energy or time to successfully execute it. Of course, moms that are lucky to have supporting partners have a huge advantage, but the strain this has on the romantic relationship is immense. The pandemic has shown a surge in divorce rates where 76% of new cases are initiated by women, compared to 60% a year ago (Stewarts Law Firm, 2020).

As a result of these dynamics, more than one in four women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable, and that is downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely. With women struggling to balance their families at home, companies are at risk of losing women in leadership roles and in turn leaving future women leaders unsure of where their destiny lies.

Solutions

Flexible Working-Hours

When things get back to normal, a major solution to this problem would be more flexible working hours. With flexible working hours, women are able to step out of the office if their child is sick or pick them up from school earlier. A 2019 survey done by Wildgoose showed that 43% of employees would like flexible working hours because it would help them deal with stress better. Corporate hours are usually based on the 9-6 clock (Mon-Fri) and cutting back hours so that mothers can pick up their children from school would help alleviate this stress and strengthen family bonds. Many studies have also demonstrated that working shorter hours and days actually leads to more productivity as people feel more relaxed and tend to have a higher work-life balance.

Child day-care centers (in-building)

Better yet, forward-thinking corporations that invest in affordable, high-quality childcare (in building) would put more ease on both parents, knowing the child is safely being taken care of, and by someone who is close at hand if the parent needs to step out. Families living across 30 wealthy nations in the OECD spend on average about 15% of their net income on childcare costs. Corporations willing to cover these costs would greatly benefit to have in house day-care as it greatly reduces the stress of their workers and in-turn enhances their well-being and productivity.

Empathy

Above all, having a spouse or family member that is empathetic, supportive, and able to help with daily chores goes a long way. Alleviating stress from the equation is the key to long-term coping and progress to the situation at hand.

Adding empathy into the work culture is also vital. The pandemic should be a wake-up call for companies to start investing and creating a more empathetic workplace. Empathic workplaces enjoy stronger collaboration, less stress, and greater morale. Employees bounce back more quickly from difficult moments as they feel supported and encouraged. Creating a nurturing culture helps retain employees and provides a safe space for women to have equal opportunities long-term.

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