Women in Exodus: Reversing the Pandemic’s Unjust Effects Part 1

Episode 26A March 05, 2021 00:27:17
Women
The Edge: A Skillsoft Podcast
Women in Exodus: Reversing the Pandemic’s Unjust Effects Part 1
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Hosted By

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek

Show Notes

While COVID-19 has caused a global health pandemic, its economic shockwaves have induced another crisis: the mass exodus of women from the global workforce. The economic impact of COVID-19 on women as a group has been manifold: disproportionate rates of job loss, greater complexity of workload, increased unpaid care work, and less out-of-home care support, to name a few. On this first part of “Women in Exodus: Reversing the Pandemic’s Unjust Effects,” a special miniseries of The Edge, five of Skillsoft’s female leaders come together to paint a picture of the pandemic-era challenges that women workers are facing.
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:01 <inaudible> Speaker 1 00:00:07 Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. In each episode, we focus on a topic related to learning and growth in the workplace. This podcast was born at the start of the pandemic. So naturally we've talked a great deal about COVID-19 and its impact on the workforce. As the pandemic reaches its one-year milestone. And as we head into women's history month, we are going to bring you a special series about the impact of COVID-19 on women in the global workforce, to say that the virus has been devastating to women is an understatement. So let's talk about this female dominated industries like hospitality, retail, travel, and tourism. They have been hit hard by a global health crisis that has literally shuttered. Once thriving businesses, women overwhelmingly, still play the role of primary caregiver in their households, forcing them to shoulder the burdens of family care while struggling to maintain careers pressures like bees have taken their toll. Speaker 1 00:01:10 And we're going to talk more about that in today's episode, but we've also lost ground. The gender inequality issues that we have been working so hard to address the impact will be felt for decades. And so in this special series of the edge, I'm bringing together a panel of women who are leaders in the field of learning and development. And we are going to discuss the ways in which we can solve for this global crisis, but let's start with some sobering numbers. According to the national women's law center, women in the United States have lost 5.3 million net jobs. Since the onset of the pandemic. As of last month, 2.3 million women had left the U S workforce, meaning they are no longer working or looking for work in January alone, 275,000 women left the workforce. This leaves the workforce participation rate in the United States for women at 57%. Speaker 1 00:02:11 And it hasn't been this low since 1988. The severity of this issue becomes even more overwhelming. When you look at it through a global lens globally women's jobs are almost twice more vulnerable in the pandemic than their male counterparts. According to a report by McKinsey, that same report notes that while women make up 39% of global employment, they actually account for 54% of overall job losses. Now the pandemic has been a major catalyst for these outcomes, but the issue also stems from longstanding socioeconomic inequities from disparities in wages to subtle yet powerful unconscious biases in the workplace. We know there's no shortage of news coverage on the pandemic's impact on women. Likewise, we know there's no shortage of data thanks to research from governments and NGOs and more, but you know what? There's a shortage of solutions and by solutions, I mean, we have to bring people together. Speaker 1 00:03:12 People who are passionate ideas driven and ready to act to improve women's economic prospects on a worldwide scale, we need to enable these change makers to take action to better the prospects for women. And we need to provide the tools, resources, and support for women, their organizations, and their allies. So we can help to regain all that we've lost. And it's not only about jobs and wages. This crisis is so complex and full of interwoven inequities that our solutions must also address the long-term ramifications. The ripple effects that four years into the future might obstruct women's access to career paths, career paths that allow for growth, fulfillment, and leadership. Now, look, I've worked in a range of industries where my organization's focus health has allowed me to make an impact on issues that I care deeply about. So this, this is a bit of a passion project, but it's one that aligns to Skillsoft's values and mission, and will allow us to drive thoughtful and meaningful change. Speaker 1 00:04:23 In this first episode, we'll focus on the issue itself, bringing to light some compelling research and candid perspectives from our four guests. Our goal for today's conversation is to foster understanding around why it is so absolutely vital that we enable and empower women. Now let's introduce today's guests. They are female leaders here at Skillsoft who share this passion. They are thought leaders who have track records for empowering women and enabling their success. And so I want to preemptively thank them for lending their experiences, their expertise, and their stories to this podcast. And you just might recognize the couple joining us, our returning guests, Elisa Vincent vice president Skillsoft, global talent enablement and Russia, Moga executive vice president, and general manager for Skillsoft leadership and business products. And please welcome to the edge for the first time. My U Chicago PhD, vice president brand strategy and marketing communications for Skillsoft and Rosie Cannes vice president for Skillsoft's Asia Pacific business. Speaker 1 00:05:28 I want to start this podcast off a bit differently, and we're going to do it by sharing with our audience one memory milestone on our paths to becoming leaders. And I'll start with, you know, honestly, and Rosie, you can, you can, you're probably going to get a good laugh out of this, but for me, it was taking on a sales leadership role when I had never been in sales. And when I asked, um, why, why me, our president? I don't want someone with sales expertise. I have plenty of that. What I need is a leader who can best support and enable this team. And it wasn't until that moment that I realized, Oh my goodness, I am a leader. I'm viewed as a leader. And so I want to publicly thank NARAS right here and right now for giving me that opportunity. Um, so why don't we turn it over to you? So what is that major or memorable milestone on your path? Speaker 2 00:06:26 Thank you, Michelle. So my first career moves were in higher education and in consulting until one day I met former president and COO of a mid-sized global for-profit organization, um, who told me that I had the right leadership skills to build a talent development function in her company. And when I asked her what those skills were, she said to me, your a multiplier, she created a role for me, and that was my entry into corporate America. It was a senior leadership role and through it, I grew the most I ever have in my career. So what Maryanne saw in me were my transferable skills, as we say, she saw my potential. And because of her, I'm doing something today that I love. And I will always be grateful to her. We're still very much in touch, even though I'm no longer at that organization. And she's no longer at that in that role. And so it's really about paying it forward, identifying those moments and she really helped unlock that for me. Speaker 1 00:07:31 Thank you. I that's, that's wonderful. And she sounds one, she sounds wonderful for giving you that opportunity. My Aisha, why don't, why don't you share with us your milestones? Speaker 2 00:07:40 Yeah. Thanks Michelle. For having me, I think leadership is a journey and my story is a little bit different. I don't think there's any one point when a leader told me that I was a leader, I think there was a awakening for me that happened a couple of years ago, which is ironic because I had already been in the workforce for about 17 or 18 years. And in that moment I recognized that leadership doesn't need to look and sound and feel like every other leader, that real leadership for me was stepping into my own voice. And once I had that epiphany and really went forward and leaned into it, I was able to tap into my own innate non imposter syndrome version of leadership. And it became a turning point for me. Speaker 1 00:08:30 Um, my Aisha, thank you so much for that. I, you know, what I, what I hear from you is that it's not necessarily about somebody telling us where leaders, but about us believing in ourselves. Yes. Speaker 2 00:08:42 Yeah, absolutely. I think for so many women in particular, we carry around that imposter syndrome. And once we really tap into it ourselves, it enables us and frees to be a different type Speaker 1 00:08:56 Of leader. Absolutely rush him. You are my most recent guest on the edge. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that milestone or moment or perhaps series of moments that led to this empowerment, this feeling of, I am truly a leader. Speaker 3 00:09:14 Thank you, Michelle. For me, it was actually very early on in my career. Then I got an opportunity to lead projects for a property of client and with my first team ground up. And it was unique for me because I was just a couple of years into my career when I got this opportunity. I said, yes, even though I was scared because my mantra in life has always been, if you get an opportunity that resonates with you say yes, and then figure it out, how to be successful. And it worked out for me and ever since then, I have always said yes to an opportunity. Never said no, if it resonated with me. And after that, I have figured out how to be successful. So that risk-taking ability that I think, um, we all need as leaders. Um, that is what I tapped into very early on in. Speaker 1 00:10:06 Well, it doesn't sound like your inner compass is leading you astray. I think that's fantastic. Rosie. Welcome. This is your first time on the edge. Can, can we ask you that same question? Um, what's one memorable milestone on your own path. Speaker 4 00:10:23 Yeah. Thank you, Michelle. And it's really interesting listening to the others here because you realize that that anyone's journey is so personal. But as I reflect on my time as a leader, which is, um, over almost a decade, it's actually been my successes as well as my struggles that have proven to be my milestones. Um, and my first struggle was, was really mainly in securing my first leadership role in the first place. And it actually took a male ally to really get behind me and support and promote my campaign into leadership. And let me tell you that took quite some convincing despite my credentials. So, uh, after that, after I actually earned the role, um, I had to admit, I did spend a long time feeling like an imposter as I was already referred to until I felt genuine success came. Um, and now I would say a milestone for me in becoming a leader is in appreciating that leadership is as much about humility and a willingness to make mistakes, to not be perfect and to learn as it is about performance. And that's me sometimes to get to Speaker 1 00:11:30 Thank you, you know, at some point I think we're going to have to do an entire episode on imposter syndrome because I worry that there are too many women who believe that they suffer from it. When in fact they're amazing leaders, they're amazing women in their roles. And, you know, w w we need to find ways to overcome this, but, you know, that's a podcast for another day. Um, Elisa, let let's, let's move on. You and I had a conversation back in, I think it was December and we shared some predictions for the events and the trends that we believed would shape learning and development in 2021. And, you know, for you, the pandemics economic impact on women was front and center. And since then you've been doing some research you're in the middle of authorizing a Skillsoft three 60 report on the topic. Can, can you help our listeners sort of, you know, gain some context and share your insights on the magnitude of the challenge? Yes, Speaker 5 00:12:23 Michelle, I, and I want to start with a bit of a personal reflection over this past year as a mom of two elementary and middle school children, I became acutely aware and started to really feel the weight of this pandemic on a parent's home life and started to connect with other parents around the world and disproportionately women in my network, who, as we all know, um, still carry much of the responsibility of child rearing elder care in general caregiving. Right? I noticed that we were making moves both voluntarily and involuntarily in the workforce moves that I could tell immediately back in May, 2020, when we first started having these conversations, Michelle, we're going to have longterm effects globally on gender equality, the workforce women's advancement you name it. We already have been sharing throughout this podcast, some pretty staggering numbers, Michelle, but the economic impact of COVID-19 on women as a group has been manifold on the one hand as the overwhelming majority of, of workers in education and healthcare and different social assistance programs, women's paid workload has become greater and more complex for hundreds of thousands of women. Speaker 5 00:13:46 The crisis has disseminated their work opportunities and for millions more substantially increase their unpaid care work. So in more immediate terms, it is the unique nature of this crisis, hitting women sectors first, and bringing with it unique in enhanced care needs, less out of home care support in unpaid labor loads that has many concerned myself included that the COVID-19 downturn could impact this generation of working women for decades to come. This disproportionate rate of job loss too, for women is simply result of, of centuries and centuries of occupational gender segregation between men and women. Women make up the majority of the workforce in sectors, which have been slain by the Corona virus, locked down retail, food services, hospitality education. So I say all this, the news and the numbers are grim. Yes, but here at Skillsoft, we are future focused on what we can do to stop this pink pandemic in its tracks quickly and effectively. Speaker 5 00:15:02 And we can, that is the thing. If we all bring our collective focus, our creativity, our genius to this global challenge, we can change its course. It will take time. So that's why we need to act now in the Skillsoft three 60 report, we will focus on solutions for number one, women for number two, allies of women. And for number three organizations, we will include solutions that outline how we can amplify our own voices, enable our growth and development. As we just talked about in our personal stories, up-skill, re-skill rebuild our careers, develop new career tracks, innovatively, supporting each other effectively and refilling our talent pipelines inclusively. We know that diversity drives better results. There's a great deal of brain power right now, out in the talent market and excellence as well. So in our three 60 report and in subsequent learning experiences and thought leadership that we gather and disseminate, we will outline opportunities and consequences of acting now. And I'm so excited to be able to share that with everyone in our community, my Aisha, you and I have been working together on our diversity equity and inclusion efforts, and we've been having a lot of fun doing so could you share for just a moment picking up on a lot of that I've outlined here, what you found particularly significant regarding the consequences of the pandemic and how this pandemic has been a catalyst for things like making workforce inequalities, worse, erasing gains, and other challenges. Speaker 2 00:16:55 Yeah. Thanks Elisa for those staggering statistics. It's always sobering to hear the reality of it. I think there's a tendency for us to otherize otherize this type of a subject and think that it happens to someone else and not us. And for me, this is very personal. I have a sibling, I have cousins who friends, who've all been impacted by COVID through some form of a job loss. And for many of them, those jobs, aren't going to come back for them. And so, you know, as I sit very grateful at home with my ability to work from home, it's not lost on me that this is wiping out decades of gains that women have made and wiping out lots of economic equality that people have, have really tried to build for. I want to talk a little bit about intersectionality just to piggyback on what you were asking me and how this is playing out from a couple of perspectives. Speaker 2 00:18:01 So you've talked about women and I just, I want to drive it home a little bit, thinking about women, not just as one group, who's just, uh, just the woman, but thinking about women as caregivers, and what about those women who are caregivers, who also happen to work in restaurants or retail or education, and may also be caring, not only for children, but for parents in low wage jobs that maybe don't give them the ability to, to be at home. And that that's one angle of intersectionality. But if we talk about what you just asked about, which is diversity, the, the numbers are even more staggering. So let's talk about being a woman of color, earning lower wages, having no options again, to work remotely. And what you start to see is that black women, Latina women in particular are really impacted by this more so than, than white women. Speaker 2 00:19:06 I had some stats from a recent fortune article and it showed that unemployment in January fell to 6.3%. Yet it Rose to 8.5% for black women and 8.8% for Latino women. And in that same period, it fell to 5.5% for white men and 5.1% for white women until we began to deal with the problems of systemic inequities that are pervasive, that continue to lead to income disparities. Even by the way, when education gaps are closed, those disparities continue to exist. It's not going to just be COVID that continues to bring about this, this disparity. It's going to be other things as well. So we have a real obligation to act. And I'm happy that you spoke about the work that we're doing here at Skillsoft. It's one of the reasons why I'm so excited to be here, because we don't just look at this as a number, and we're not, otherizing the issue. This is really personal, many of these jobs, as I mentioned earlier, they're not going to come back. And so we have an obligation and a duty as brothers and sisters here on this planet to help people do better and to get the skills that they need. And I'm very thrilled to be a part of doing that. Yeah. Speaker 3 00:20:33 When I think about this, it's not about the short-term consequences. And when you really look at this, this big pandemic has put us decades behind, you know, I think all the work that we have been doing in last decades to bring in within where women in the work doors and to build a pipeline of women, leaders has been canceled by the effects of these, uh, this COVID. I feel like you'll have to start from the bottom again. The leadership pipeline takes years to build. And if you take out 54% of that pipeline, you just left with the same problem. If not, um, uh, you know, if not bigger than having, not having enough women or leadership positions for the next few decades now, uh, Michelle, you know, that I lead in a initiative called the empowered women of the world with a goal to empower women, to discover, visualize, and actualize their success. Speaker 3 00:21:32 And in my three years of leading this initiative, I've learned how hard it is for women to put themselves first and to really discover what success means to them. A lot of that discovering of success comes from building self-confidence knowing that they can be successful leaders and being financially independent. And as a result of effects of this pandemic, women will lose their buying power. They will again be financially independent and think about that. What does that do to the children of today, both boys and girls who grow up, seeing men as leaders and women as homemakers, that mindset that we have been trying to change for years, that women can be what they want to be and become great leaders. That one needs to be changed again. And then there is a business perspective altogether, you know, so many women being out of the workforce will mean that there will be no diversity of part in the solutions that we build. Speaker 3 00:22:32 The bias that we currently see in AI will increase manyfold, and it will skew so many data sets that currently that are currently used in AI algorithms. There's so many dimensions to this impact that we can't even comprehend right now. So it's, it becomes, you know, so important today, more than ever before, to make sure that we provide each other, that sense of connection, that sense of community and build the capability so that that pipeline doesn't dry out so that we are not put decades behind. And it doesn't take another century or more to bring women to, to where we are today and, and, uh, to achieve parody. Speaker 1 00:23:20 Yeah. You know, I think, I think that that's great perspective rush him and, you know, Rosie, I want you to jump in here because we've been really talking about, at least I started off with a view of what this looked like here in the United States, but you you've taken an international perspective. And actually the piece that you wrote is what spawned kind of this, um, entire broader effort on, of Skillsoft. So, so tell us about what's happening, um, in the rest of the world. You you've, you've, you've done so much research on your own in the Asia Pacific region region. We need that international perspective. Speaker 4 00:23:59 Yeah. Thank you, Michelle. And I really have to say it's, it's exactly, um, the state of the nation that may Isha and Russia have been mapping out for us already. So you're right in December, 2020, um, I wrote an article entitled the pink pandemic, addressing diversity issues highlighted by COVID-19. And here I talk about exactly what we're discussing right here, which is the disproportionate impact that has had on women, the world over. So here's some key numbers from an Asia Pacific perspective. So in Japan women account to account for at least 66% of the Corona virus era job losses, um, in Australia, according to Monash university, the center for health education, health research, Australian women lost jobs at a greater rate early in the pandemic about 55% of jobs lost just in April, were held by women, even though they accounted for only 47% of the workforce. Speaker 4 00:25:01 Now in general terms, I mean, it's a more systemic issue. Of course, the gender gap in the labor market, a more pronounced in the Asia Pacific region, then across the OACD and women in the region, and therefore more likely to experience poverty and deprivation. Um, another startling fact is women in Asia are on average 70%, less likely than men to even be in the workforce in the first place. Um, in Asia Pacific, there is only one woman in leadership positions for every four men and women carry out most of the unpaid work, you know, providing care for children, elderly, sick, and disabled family members, as well as doing other unpaid housework. So in APAC, um, in the, in the region, the gender gap on unpaid work is about three hours a day. So if you, if you factor that in and it goes to what the others are saying here. Speaker 4 00:26:01 So, so here's the thing. These are disappointing numbers from a personal standpoint, but they're also disappointing from a business and economic one. So it was interesting. According to McKenzie that advancing women's equity in the countries across Asia Pacific would actually add, get this 4.5 trillion to their collective annual GDP by 2025. Now that's a 12% increase over the business as usual trajectory. So this should matter to all of us. Um, so I think, I think it just goes to show that it is, it is a worldwide phenomenon, um, but there are things that can be done and there are payoffs and benefits for what should be done. Speaker 1 00:26:46 Thank you so much for sharing that broader perspective, Rosie, I think it's really important. Thank you so much for highlighting this in that December piece, because I don't think we'd be here today without you Speaker 4 00:26:56 <inaudible>. Speaker 1 00:27:01 So too, we're going to talk all about solutions, rolling up our sleeves and recommending ways to enable and empower women on a global.

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