Lean In | Laid Off

Lean In = 2013

Sheryl Sandberg released her NYTimes bestseller Lean In, Women, Work and the Will to Lead and set the corporate world on a path toward greater gender equity. Ms. Sandberg’s writing encouraged women to break the gender stereotype and employers to compensate men and women equally. Lean In, you can have it all, work, family, personal fulfillment.   Hardworking, aspiring women leaders joined in the movement.  One of my favorite quotes is:

In 1970, women were paid 59 cents for every man’s dollar earned. In 2010, that number was 77 cents, prompting activist Marlo Thomas to joke, “A dozen eggs have gone up 10 times that amount.”

Lay Off = 2020

  1. The year everything changed. Women suffered fifty-five percent of the job losses this year.  Keep in mind these are terminations made by employers.  Many other women have opted out of the new work at home employment.  Lastly, the closure rate of women-owned small businesses is approaching one million this year This count most likely is an undercount of the actual number of storefronts, services, and solo proprietors who have dropped out due to the failing economy.

Pandemic Exposed Many Inequities

The rapid shift of our daily work and school schedules to life at home is impacting women on many levels.  When schools shut down the classroom shifts to the kitchen table.  When the nursing home is no longer safe, the spare room becomes grandpa’s new home.  When unemployment benefits run out, a realignment of food and shelter take priority over building a new business or schooling for a new career.

Inequality has many faces.  Gender and race are the two inequities most often studied.  Women are losing ground climbing the corporate ladder.  In fact, McKinsey and Company’s research shows one-third of women ascending to the Director, and C Suites are choosing to drop out this year.  The loss of role models and advocates to advance the next generation of female leaders is our canary in the coal mine.

McKinsey’s study highlights the lack of new work norms with our new home office design. Many female employees feel that work is now 24/7.  That the risk of not being constantly present will limit their future advancement using an unwritten rule book that hints of discrimination.  Racial inequity is even more pronounced in corporate America. Minority women and single mothers carrying all the household responsibilities may not fit the company first mentality.

Lean In | Laid Off

Sandwich Generation Squeezed To their Limits

This timeline exposes the critical strain we are now placing on family caregivers.  Today’s remote employee lacks a work-life balance to succeed.  Yesterday’s Employee Benefits package of a gym membership, paid time off, insurance coverage, childcare, travel reimbursement, and the list goes on, are not applicable to today’s remote work environment and pandemic restrictions.  In fact, employers are not adjusting these benefits to meet new challenges.  Moreover, employees are less likely to voice their struggles with the knowledge that another round of layoffs could happen.  The increased demands at home are leading many women to opt-out of the job market altogether.

Caregiving In Crisis

The snowball is growing on the stressor family caregivers are facing.  My fear is we are headed for an avalanche of burnt-out of nations’ 53 million family caregivers.   We have an urgent need for employers, government programs, and home and community-based services to tackle this crisis.  We need national policy and state initiatives to improve the work vital family members provide for free every day.

Hazard Yet Forward,

Monica Stynchula, MSW, MPH