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Leadership, Skills and the Impact of the Pandemic on Progress to Parity

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has erased hard-fought gains in gender parity at work. It’s been twice the negative impact as women have taken on both more at home while roles predominantly held by women have been downsized. At the same time, a new future is currently unfolding that needs to take into account the skills, leadership and resources provided by women.  

Behind every setback, an opportunity can be found. Employers must meet the call to support the women in their organizations and reshape the environment of work. Here are ways to move forward with women learning new skills, advancing in leadership and stepping into a post-pandemic world. 

Needs to reskill
The impact of the pandemic accelerated changes already taking place for in-demand roles. Reskilling and upskilling will benefit women to meet the increased demand for cybersecurity experts, data analysts, software and app developers. In addition, new roles provide opportunities in areas such as contact tracers, distance monitors and temperature checkers are emerging as fast as others decline in aviation, hospitality and entertainment. 

Ask for flexibility
Women and all parents and caretakers can leverage the last year to ask for flexibility and remote work options to continue if they are available and have provided improved balance. Millennials in particular who have caretaking responsibilities are most eager to avoid the commute and least willing to lose flexibility they have gained. As the vaccine roll-outs continue and organizations plan for the future, make sure to communicate your work preferences and how the optimal arrangements benefit everyone. 

Consider career progression
For many workers, it’s been a year of coping and getting by as best as possible under the circumstances. In fact, IT workers are the only sector that do not rank “just keeping their job” as top priority. Now as we look ahead, don’t lose sight of career development, progression and advancement. Women should feel empowered to move up in their organization and ask for responsibilities and positions of authority while being supported by their organization. 

Value your soft skills
Witnessing the biggest workforce shift and reallocation of skills since World War II means that skills that were en vogue in 2019 might now be out of fashion. However, soft skills continue to endure and be in demand. In times of rapid transformation and uncertainty, these so-called soft skills are more important than ever in workers and in leaders. As we move forward, women can emphasize abilities such as adaptability, communication and human connection to help themselves and their organizations navigate change. 

As we progress through and past the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs women leaders more than ever. For International Women’s Day, the time is now to focus a spotlight on the necessity of women’s impact in the workforce.