How successful women can battle the ‘shecession’ and network

During the coronavirus pandemic, everyone has made sacrifices — but not nearly as many as women, both in the workforce and those that had to step away due to household duties.

The demands of child care and housework all under one roof has caused many working moms to step away from their jobs and quit. With home aide situations virtually impossible due to social distancing and controlling the virus, working women have been forced to shift priorities to home care needs, an alarming trend that could be detrimental for the women’s workforce.

More than 2 million women have left their jobs in the past year, according to the National Women’s Law Center. When compared that to the 1.8 million men that walked away from the labor force since the start of the pandemic, that number is even more disturbing. Currently, the women’s labor force participation rate sat at 57% in February, down from 59.2% in February 2020, just a month before the start of the pandemic.

The participation rate has not been that low since 1988, according to the report.

Some economists have dubbed this exodus from the workforce the “shecession,” forcing millions of women to sacrifice their careers in order to provide at home.

A recent study conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, found that one-third of working moms in two-parent households were the only ones providing care for their children (one-tenth of working fathers did, according to the study).

Another study said that in 55% of American households, women are twice as likely to be the primary (or lone) provider for household duties, including cooking, cleaning, and education during the pandemic

The pandemic has halted years of work to level out the playing field, progress which is flirting on disaster. According to a new survey from American Express titled, “Amex Trendex: International Women’s Day Edition,” 56% of working women surveyed agree that they still feel ambitious for their careers, two-thirds (66%) agree their priorities have dramatically changed due to the pandemic. Nearly half of women surveyed (49%) say they’re putting their families’ health and wellbeing ahead of their professional aspirations right now. Over 30% of women have delayed a major life decision due to the pandemic as well.

“I would say we are definitely on the cusp of a crisis because there are a disproportionate amount of woman having to leave the workforce right now,” Sam Hammock, SVP of Global Talent at Verizon, told Ladders recently. “The decades of amazing progress that (women) have made, with equity, female workforce across the nation — could very well be at risk.”

Whether you’re someone that left the workforce due to the pandemic or are thinking about reentering, Hammock said it’s a great time to start proactively thinking about what the workforce means for women across the country, and how a strategic plan can help you get on the right track to getting your career back.

In a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult, commissioned by Verizon, the findings highlighted what Hammock alluded to: women are leaving the workforce due to burnout from the pandemic and have to juggle at-home responsibilities

For women who voluntarily left the workforce, 68% said burnout was the driving factor. Among women who voluntarily left their job during the  pandemic, more than half (53%) said burnout or difficulty balancing work and personal responsibilities was the main cause, with 22% saying caregiving responsibilities due to childcare provider or school closures was a driving force.

Verizon announced this month that it will be launching the Women’s CoLab, an initiative geared toward helping women prepare and succeed in the digital world, where they will provide guidance from industry leaders, strategies to negotiation, and much more in an effort to break down barriers and help women remain in the workplace.

Finding a job regardless of situation might seem daunting, but there are a few things women can do right now to help them get ahead and on the right path back to work — and it all starts at home.

Your professional footprint

Starting with LinkedIn or other professional networking services, keeping up-to-date with what’s around you can help you begin networking right in your backyard. Hammock said that following what’s happening in the fields you’re interested in and looking at professionals in those fields can give you an idea on how to make your first move.

For women at-home or those that have been out of the workforce for a while, another option could be to look around you.

“Connections and networks come from every facet of life. If you’re a working mom or caregiver, you could have parenting groups or hobbies that you’re doing and people are in your circle — talk to them about works,” Hammock said.

“Your network grows, their network grows, and we think about this networking effect — leverage that. Let people know you are thinking about going back to work, talk about what they are doing and how your skills or passion can connect. This notion of expanding your network past just people currently working in that feel is really powerful. I don’t think we use that enough to let people know we’re open and we’re thinking about it proactively.”

Cold calls — and more

They might seem awkward at first but everyone is remote at the moment; don’t why away from reaching out to someone if a job interests you.

“There’s a level playing field in that. You’re not bumping into somebody in the office or the hallway or the famous elevator speech,” Hammock said. “If we’re not meeting in those ways the convenience is nobody is meeting in those ways right now. Since everyone is networking virtually, you have a level playing field where those cold calls and making those connections can really pay off.”

The same goes for posts you might see on LinkedIn. Hammock advised that if something that someone posts interests you, there’s no harm in replying to the post or messaging the person directly if you want to get more information. With one reply, it could be an opportunity to expand your network.

Your skills at-home are really valuable

Just because you aren’t in a physical office or stuck on Zoom calls all day at home doesn’t mean being a caregiver or teacher to your children during the pandemic doesn’t show skills. Whatever the reason for your time off from work is, women should be able to show what they were doing during the hiatus which can show potential employers skills that you might not have known you had before.

“There’s so many skills that (women) have accomplished and they should call those out,” Hammock said. “We’ve all seen resumes — people have questions about gaps in employment and people tend to leave those off. I would actually encourage people to be honest; label what those gaps in employment are.”

Leading with honesty and candidness can be a strategic element, Hammock said.

“People will appreciate you if you are homeschooling your kids five-days-a-week at the kitchen table, running the house, and everything else,” she said. “That’s a big job.”

For instance, managing a schedule at home shows a lot of product management. By explaining your responsibilities at home and skills used and tailoring it, it could be shown as how you handled a specific situation. The same goes for teaching training and development, according to Hammock, and volunteering.

She said that these types of tasks can prove to be valuable in any sense, but applicants tend to ignore what they did at home during periods where they stepped away from work. She’s advocating for people to include it on their resumes.

“Traditionally, I think we don’t see that as a strength of how I would build my career in the workplace. We’re not making the connection and adjacency and skills and the activities that we are doing in those roles at home in the workplace,” Hammock said. “There’s a mindset and mentality that this wasn’t good enough; there’s no relation to what I can accomplish in the workplace and what I have been doing at home. We need to start to shift that mindset and talk about how that was a huge benefit. There are absolutely skills and competency that we have mastered in that role that do equate to benefits in the workplace.”