Women’s jobs are more vulnerable and prone to economic shocks and business disruption than men’s, finds new data and analysis of the UK labour market from LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network. The data suggests that this labour market vulnerability has set back progress made toward gender equality in the workplace.
Between January 2019 to January 2021, LinkedIn’s data shows the share of women being hired in the UK fell sharply in March and April 2020, before recovering to pre-pandemic levels. Women were 45.8% of all hires in January 2021, compared to 42.2% in April 2020 .
While the hiring outlook for women is better now than in Spring 2020, analysis shows there is an urgent need to make up the lost ground caused by the pandemic. The current improvement in the rate at which women are being hired doesn’t offset the number of women that have been disproportionately affected by job losses, with many leaving the labour market altogether. Data from HM Treasury also shows that more women have been furloughed in the UK (2.32 million) compared to men (2.18 million).
Women’s careers more adversely impacted by Covid-19
LinkedIn’s analysis found that several factors meant women’s careers were more adversely impacted by the pandemic: Women tend to take on a larger share of caregiving responsibilities in the home, which continues to be disrupted by school and other closures. Women were more adversely impacted by labour market disruptions to the retail, travel and leisure industries which employ a relatively greater share of women. Women’s jobs tend to involve more in-person contact and are less likely to be remote-ready.
Women feel job prospects have suffered
Women themselves feel that their job prospects have suffered considerably as a result of the pandemic, according to a study of 2,000+ working professionals (aged 25-55) in the UK from LinkedIn and educational charity, The Female Lead. According to the study, 41% of women said they had left or considered leaving the workforce, either permanently or temporarily, with stress (57%), too much responsibility at home and work (33%), and lack of childcare (14%) being the key reasons cited. Data from LinkedIn also finds that on average, women in the UK applied to 4% fewer jobs last year compared to men.
Janine Chamberlin, Senior Director at LinkedIn, said: “The vulnerability of women’s jobs combined with the extra domestic responsibilities they are taking on during this time threatens to set back progress made towards workplace gender equality. Companies can play a major part in ensuring that we get back on track by rethinking how they attract, hire and retain female talent. Implementing progressive workplace policies to offer greater flexibility to care givers, carefully considering the language of jobs adverts and employer branding to encourage female applicants, and expanding talent pools to entice a broader spectrum of talent and skills, can make a big difference when it comes to hiring more women into the workplace.”
David Henderson, Chief HR Officer at Zurich Insurance Group, said: “It’s more important than ever for employers to empower their people to decide where, when and how they work. Flexible working, including job share and part time opportunities, is key to ensuring everyone has a level playing field when it comes to career prospects. During the pandemic, our longstanding Flexwork@Zurich commitment is enabling our people to balance work with other commitments, such as caregiving and homeschooling. In some countries, we have extended this by offering a two-week fully paid ‘lockdown-leave’ for parents facing childcare emergencies due to school closures. At times like these, employers should stand shoulder to shoulder with their people.”
Lucia Farrance, Senior Customer Experience Manager at Thames Water, who led the company’s ‘Women In Ops Recruitment Project’, said: “In order to bring about real change, women need more seats at the table and we know that phrases like “competitive”, “confident” and “champion” can put some women off from applying for our manual roles. I am really proud our initiative to change the ‘masculine’ wording of our job adverts has resulted in more women applying for roles at Thames Water. There is a huge pool of untapped female talent out there and it is great to see some of that showing through in the recruits coming into our frontline operational teams. We are extremely passionate about championing the importance and benefits of a diverse and equal workforce. By embedding this initiative into our recruitment policies we’re helping to breakdown gender barriers and highlight the fantastic careers the water industry has to offer.”
Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, said: “The pandemic has fundamentally impacted gender equality in the workplace. Now more than ever, it is crucial to focus leadership attention, commit to firm targets and mobilise resources – this is the moment to embed gender parity by design into the recovery.”
Improving workplace gender equality
Companies can help improve workplace gender equality by:
Implementing progressive workplace policies to enable greater flexibility – The future of work will undoubtedly be more flexible. Research from LinkedIn finds more than three-quarters (76%) of C-level executives in the UK trust their employees to work productively from home since the onset of COVID-19. Furthermore, 74% of women in the UK say that family friendly workplace policies would offer them more support if they were available today. To ensure women do not have to choose between their family and their careers, flexible working opportunities are a must. LinkedIn data finds that women are 26% more likely to apply to remote jobs than men.
Carefully considering the language of job adverts and employer branding – The words that companies use to describe everything from job descriptions to company culture influences its ability to attract a gender-balanced workforce. LinkedIn’s research finds that 44% of women would be discouraged from applying to a role if the word ‘aggressive’ was included in the job advert. To encourage more women to apply to roles, companies should be aware of masculine-coded language and instead use open and inclusive language, such as ‘supportive’ and ‘collaborative’.
Expanding existing talent pools – Companies have the opportunity to tap into new and expanded talent pools which will help them to improve the diversity of their workforce and also bring new skills into the business. To reach more diverse talent, companies should consider their employer branding strategy and look to partner with organisations that have an existing engaged community or following. To ensure women benefit from this, it’s important businesses understand what matters most to them when choosing a new job and that these priorities are considered as part of company policy and benefits.