The She-cession is upon us, and a generation of working women may be left behind.

Female employees have accounted for the majority of net job cuts since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, reversing a decade of job gains since the end of the Great Recession, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. And as the pandemic drags on, the losses are continuing to pile up with no end in sight. In September, when many public schools adopted remote-only or hybrid learning models, four times more women than men dropped out of the labor market, putting their careers on hold to become primary caregivers.

It can be hard to see any silver linings here, but if you look closely, they are there. The pandemic, by itself, isn’t hurting women’s careers. It is merely highlighting — in bright fluorescent yellow marker — the existing inequities in the workplace and society that already created deep-seated disparities between men and women, from the gender pay gap to the lack of women in executive leadership roles.

Keeping women in the workplace during this crisis — and, later, helping those who left to return to work — should be an imperative for employers. This is not just about doing the right thing. Research by McKinsey & Co. indicates that profits and stock performance can be close to 50 percent higher at companies where women are well represented at the top. COVID-19 is giving companies a chance to hit the reset button and rewrite the rules to create a more equitable, more successful workplace.

This is not the time to go back to the way it has always been. Employers need to think boldly. If they do, they will discover that systemic changes benefit all employees, not just women.

“If we actually thought about all our employees working in a more flexible way, it can be better for everyone,” says Boston Consulting Group managing director Matt Krentz, who has been surveying working parents throughout the pandemic. “That’s how you are going to build the best team.”

Here are five ways the pandemic can reshape the workplace for the better.


3. The child-care system is broken, and employers must help fix it.

The pandemic has laid bare how fragile and precarious the child-care system is in the United States, and experts agree that reliable and affordable child care is the key to getting our economy back. Companies and policy makers must invest in child care so that women don’t have to keep choosing between their families and their careers.

Before COVID-19, some employers started to take a look at how they could better support working parents, but the virus has given it a new sense of urgency. Some companies have already stepped up, temporarily increasing child-care subsidies or setting up learning centers to accommodate employees' school-age children with remote learning. Yet a September survey by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which represents employers, indicated that almost a third of the workforce reported having significant issues with child care.

Child care has also caught the attention of Congress. In June, US Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose proposed a bill that would invest $10 billion over five years through competitive grants to help child-care centers renovate their facilities and adapt to the pandemic. Many centers are in dire straits after a government-mandated shutdown forced them to close in the spring. According to Strategies for Children, an early education advocacy group, the child-care sector in Massachusetts lost an estimated $250 million a month during the statewide closures.


Original story here.