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More than 1 in 4 women may downshift or leave their careers

More than 1 in 4 women may downshift or leave their careers

 October 01, 2020

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A major crisis is emerging where more than one in four women are thinking about potentially downshifting their careers or even leaving the workforce.

The 2020 Women in the Workplace report from LeanIn and McKinsey & Co. reveals slow but measurable progress for women at all levels of management. Yet, many of the gains could potentially be wiped out in a single year as a significant number of women may leave their jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.

Women are significantly impacted by the pandemic

While no one is experiencing business as usual, women have been affected the most - three groups in particular.

Firstly, working mothers were already working a “double shift” - a full day of work, followed by many hours of work in the home - before the pandemic. With the shutting of many schools, home education added a significant and relentless strain for many women.

Secondly, senior-level women are being put under considerable pressure both at work and home. Women are often held to higher performance standards and tend to be blamed more for failure, so now mre than ever it is likely that senior-level women will likely be judged more harshly than their male counterparts. Burnout is certainly a looming factor.

Thirdly, women of color are dealing with many challenges including increasing incidents of racial inequality and discrimination in the workplace. Black women are more likely than other employees to feel excluded and constrained in bringing their whole selves to work. Again, burnout may be accelerated due to these significant factors. Companies must ensure anti-racism training is consistently implemented to help forge inclusive behavior and to support employees in showing up as allies for Black colleagues.

Additionally, working from home has blurred the line between work and home. Many women feel they need to be constantly "on" and available to their employer. Again, the stress and anxiety arising from this scenario has many negative consequences.   

If work can truly fit people's lives, workplaces will be more supportive for everyone

"If companies rise to the moment, they can head off the disaster of losing millions of women and setting gender diversity back years. They can also lay the groundwork for a better future beyond Covid-19. Cracking the code of making 'work from home' work for employees will yield major rewards in the future. And if we can make work truly fit into people’s lives, it will be a more supportive workplace for everyone," rallies Sheryl Sandberg Facebook Inc.’s chief operating officer and founder of LeanIn.Org the global community dedicated to helping women achieve their ambitions.

Download the Women in the Workplace report

Women in the Workplace is the largest study on the state of women in corporate America. Based on data from 317 companies employing more than 12 million people, tthe 2020 report features:

  • an overview of what companies are doing to support employees during COVID-19 - where they’ve stepped up, and where they can do more
  • a detailed look at the dynamics that are driving mothers, senior-level women, and Black women to consider downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce
  • recommended strategies for addressing the core challenges women are facing and taking an intersectional approach to diversity

Download the Women in the Workplace report here.


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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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