Employers in the U.S. are seeing a record number of women leaving the workforce – willingly or otherwise. The pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on their home/work life balance.

The number of women neglecting to return to the office is four times that of men – 1.8 million women. What factors are causing them to play a substantial role in what’s being regarded as the “Great Resignation”?

And what’s next for the future of women in the workforce?

The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic saw unemployment rates soar across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nearly 11 million people were without jobs by December of 2020. Businesses furloughed, laid off, or cut hours for workers leaving millions of Americans without a reliable source of income.

A massive push to “get back to normal” fueled an economic reopening that was meant to be the solution to a year and a half of hardship.

However – despite record high job openings, the number of women either looking for work or working fell between September and August. The number climbed for men.

This could be influenced by the influx of children returning to school, which economists believed would light a fire under more women to rejoin the workforce. More women are choosing to stay home to better care for their children.

So – why are more women leaving than their male counterparts? One attributing factor is lack of benefits.

Women are weighing the stress of a job with what the company has to offer. The sectors seeing the most decline are the restaurant and service industry. With low wages, high expectations, and having to deal with unideal customers – many are taking their skills and utilizing them elsewhere.

“It got to a point where my child didn’t matter.”

Tiffany Ingram left her job as a restaurant manager before the pandemic. Her decision was based on the lack of flexibility and sympathy in the workplace. While her daughter waited to be picked up from school, Tiffany waited for someone to relieve her of her shift. She was told she couldn’t leave until then. No one came. Having no family in Memphis at the time, Tiffany had no assistance. She is now a stay-at-home mom.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Since choosing to remain home, it has had a significantly positive impact on her and her 13-year-old’s life. She’s developed a stronger relationship with her daughter, helping with her homework and being there for critical moments in her life.

Education plays a big part in why many women are saying goodbye to their jobs. Student grades across the country are falling at an alarming rate. There are an unprecedented amount of children failing at least one grade.

On top of other home duties, women are acting as teachers for their kids. Some even seek out help from other parents in efforts to keep from giving up.

“There were parents in the community who knew how I helped my daughter, and they also brought their children here. We helped each other mentally, physically and emotionally.”

For many, this is an emotionally charged time. To help alleviate some of the pressure and stress other parents were feeling, Tiffany turned her garage into a classroom.

On top of stagnant wages, unhealthy home/life/work balance, grades dropping, there’s also inequality in the workplace. It’s no wonder many women, especially those of color, opted not to return to work.

According to a recent study, 57% of women of color say their career is jeopardy due to damaging stereotypes.

So, what can be done?

Companies looking to bring in new employees and raise retention rates can offer flexible hours, remote or hybrid options for parents. They could provide maternal and options for miscarriage or mental health leave. And finally, companies could hire more women of color.

Keep in mind, substantial change won’t happen unless companies make an attempt to provide an empowering, inclusive, and positive environment for workers.

Tiffany doesn’t plan to ever return to the workforce but imparts some wisdom for people looking to make a change – whatever it may be. 

“Some people think they need a big support system to make a difference. You don’t. You only need yourself.”

Some companies are already making strides to offer better incentives for women to return to work. In England, Kellogg’s announced that it will provide support to women going through menopause, miscarriage, or fertility treatment.

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