Last Friday, I keynoted the CXO NOW’s power hour for women in leadership across the country. I was asked in January to speak so my topic was Impression Management. But the world changed, and my topic evolved to the title above. The last two months are by far the most challenging of my professional life. While my family is happy and healthy, which is my top priority – my patience is thin, the mental gymnastics are high, and I am exhausted. I am not alone with these issues as working women and working mothers are increasing in popularity – over half of the workforce is female and 73% of mothers are working.
So, why am I singling out the working mothers? Because it’s hard – we were exhausted before this COVID environment rocked our professional and personal lives. We were living in two siloed environments of work and home. Most of us outsourced a majority of our lives, cooking, cleaning, teaching, landscaping, etc.
Overnight we became teachers, cooks, cleaners, technology experts, and commander in chief of the household. I am not ashamed to say that I personally have not printed anything in years and I don’t even know how a printer works. That is how outsourced my life was two months ago.
So what do we need now? Employers, we need you to look at how you are doing business with women. There are insurmountable data surrounding women’s inequality at work and at home. Now that both of these worlds are colliding, it’s a perfect storm for working women.
If you find your company is beginning to look at layoffs, start making sure that it isn’t impacting women unfairly. Recently the Labor Department published some alarming statistics regarding layoffs disproportionally impacting African Americans, Latinos, and women. As employers, we need to be aware and make adjustments to ensure that there is equity across all employees. Create actionable and equitable policies for all
Consider offering more flexible timelines for work that isn’t mandatory. The world is moving at a slower pace which offers businesses a more fluid timeline. Reprioritize what is necessary and let the rest slide. And just a note to employees – it doesn’t all have to been done tomorrow. Prioritization should happen twice a day in times of change. Once in the morning and again in the evening.
Engage your employees in an empathic manner. Even if you cannot relate to what is happening to 73% of mothers with children in the home that are working, a simple nudge of “good job” or a meaningful “how are you doing?” can make a difference in the day. I often greet employees children over the phone, which is something I wouldn’t have even thought of doing two months ago. Employees, let your boss know your limits and offer realistic timeframes for completing tasks. You can also help with setting expectations.
Also, let’s be real for a minute – video conferencing isn’t necessary for every meeting. If you are communicating data or bullet points to an individual, an email will suffice and offers flexibility to the individual on the other end. Video conferencing is great for building consensus and influencing individuals, but a video conference only to communicate data is annoying and a waste of time.
In short, be the boss you would like to work for right now and do not undermind the grief we are all experiencing as a society. Most of us are in a season of grieving. We may have experienced loss in different areas with some of us losing loved ones. But all of us are losing our way of life, even if it does end up being a temporary loss – it’s a loss all the same. I would urge you to recognize this loss as an employer and not push your stress to your team. Instead elevate the stress to create awareness and equity for those around in the C-Suite. When the world looks back on COVID 19, I hope the silver lining will be how many women held this country together, both at home and at work.