As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we at WLH are presenting another spotlight interview on an exceptional leader who has changed and thrived through the difficulties of the past year. I speak with long term friend and colleague, Janet Loesberg about how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women workers and how leaders can be more flexible and amenable to the increased demands that have been placed on these employees.
Janet and I speak at length about the unique burdens on women in the workforce as a result of the pandemic. On a personal level, Janet speaks to the stress she experienced by caring for her family and attending to her own mental health while leading an organization of 550 people through transformation. On a broader level, she reflects on the fact that 4 million women left the workplace this past year and for many, this was a result of the inability to balance the increasing demand to care for children, elder family members, and related responsibilities while working a full-time job.
The statistics tell a similar story. According to a study conducted by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org & , 40% of mothers had to take on an additional 3 or more hours of caregiving each day in 2020, amounting to over 15 hours a week. This burden lands disproportionately on women, with only 27% of fathers reporting a similar increase in caregiving responsibilities. The study also notes that women experience a pressure to always “be on,” something that Janet personally experiences and notes as a significant source of stress.
Given the ways that women have had to adapt and take on more responsibility throughout the pandemic, Janet illuminates some ways that leaders can ease this burden. Leaders ought to give their employees the space and freedom to manage their own workdays by reaffirming the organization’s overarching goals and trusting employees to direct their time as they see fit. This allows employees to tend to other responsibilities (when necessary) while staying on course. She also emphasizes the importance of taking care of one’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being in order to give employees what is needed from a dedicated and attentive leader.
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