Include gender equity in your Covid-19 response strategy to maintain retention

April 20, 2020
By Hei-ock Kim

As a company leader, you may be tempted to move gender equity to the back burner until some unscheduled point “after the pandemic.” Before you finalize your decision, consider at least these two scenarios being played out all over the country that can directly impact your retention rate.

Lila is the primary caregiver for a young child and an elderly parent. Her supervisor denied her requests to work from home until Covid-19 made it a necessity. Lila is, however, expected to return to her desk when the quarantine ends. Unfortunately, her partner’s business is taking a hit with the crisis so the couple may not be able to afford caregiving help in the aftermath. If Lila’s request to work from home is denied again, she will quit her job for more flexibility.

On the flip side, Jin makes more than her husband but at a company where she makes less than comparable men. The couple was able to manage as long as they both earned a paycheck. Now, with three children and all outside help eliminated by quarantine, the couple may need to sacrifice the husband’s lower income so he can care for the kids. When the crisis is over, Jin will leave her employer for better pay.

In times of great stress, people often suffer increased impact from injustices they tolerated in the past. For many employers, this time is an inflection point. If you are fortunate enough to stay in business, you will protect your company’s sustainability by paying attention to your employees’ gender-related needs not despite the crisis but because of it. In fact, you may come out ahead of your less progressive competitors.

Here are some strategies to include in your post-crisis plan:

  • Consider making working from home a permanent option. In fact, working from home could be an antidote to several manifestations of gender discrimination, according to Deb Tennen-Zapier.
  • Examine your pay and promotion practices carefully for bias and transparency.
  • Ask your employees for honest feedback about your company’s gender culture. You can only solve the problems you know about and fully understand. Guessing is a wasted effort.

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