Earlier this Women’s History Month our colleague, Jessica, gave voice to her story as a young woman regarding the Pursuit of Passion. Inspired by that, I felt moved to discuss the Pursuit of Purpose. The hope for most of us is that our passions and purpose are intertwined in our lives, with our inspirations and ideas fueling our deeper motivations and destinations. Unfortunately, those paths and possibilities still remain more challenging for some, and that is important to recognize.
A significant number of people might choose to believe that professional equality has been achieved between the genders because much progress has been made throughout history. I could share in great detail, perhaps even uncomfortable detail, countless personal experiences from my past to the contrary, but we need not look any further than how COVID has impacted women in the workplace to see the vast differences that exist.
Statistics show that it will take women about two years longer than men to recover to pre-pandemic levels of employment. In September 2020 when schools resumed, 1.1 million people exited the workforce and 80% of them were women. What’s the root of this? The disparity of household responsibilities disproportionately carried by women: taking care of kids and parents, cooking, cleaning, shopping and so much more. Women had to make incredibly tough choices, and oftentimes left the workplace to get their families through the difficult circumstances COVID presented.
As a professional working woman and a mom of two little boys, this trend is heartbreaking. While I understand the tough decisions many people have made, and the restructuring of so many lives and social norms, losing women from the workforce is not something we should gently accept. For some women it may absolutely be a determined choice to focus on being a mother, a volunteer, or find their own brand of achievement outside the typical 9-5 workplace, but it was exactly that: a choice. For other women leaving the workforce, it was still a decision, and one we should all support, but if rooted in any way as an expectation because of their gender, we need also recognize that a part of their story may not be as they intended, that an inequitable past once again played out as prologue.
Every single day I am inspired by amazing women, from my coworkers to our client family, by what passionate, dynamic and capable individuals they are. Likewise, I am in awe of my friends that have balanced the tremendous responsibilities of raising children, especially in recent times, with the demands of their careers. The patience, multi-tasking, time management, empathy, decision-making, work-ethic, and resolve that is required is really nothing short of magic. It should be recognized that those traits transcend any specific position or industry and are universally valuable to every business and organization.
Personally, I am beyond fortunate. I happen to work with the most amazing group of men that support me and our female colleagues endlessly. In their company, and within our company, I have not been deprived of any possibility.
I have not been held to an unachievable standard of perfection, nor have I been hindered from living my purpose. For me, that fulfillment is achieved through a delicate balance between my professional and personal worlds. But it definitely includes both, and I am not alone in that sentiment.
It is my fervent hope that we collectively strive to create a similar environment for all women in the workplace and to find opportunities for equity, to ensure that they return, and that no story is left untold or unheard.
Source: McKinsey and Oxford Economics, McKinsey Analysis: Current Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.