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From the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen millions of women leaving the workforce in the US, as well as in other countries. School and childcare options became so limited and made it impossible for women to leave their homes. If this situation is not reversed, and quickly, we may see that the progress women have made to date in the workplace will revert to what it was a generation ago.

In the US the number of women that have left the labor market since the onset of the pandemic is around 2.2 million. Women with children have had to leave their jobs or cut their work hours drastically in order to take on childcare responsibilities, remote schooling and other unexpected duties.

Whilst idling the time away, perhaps playing at a great jackpot casino, may seem like a fun thing to do, things do need to change. As previously stated, women’s progress in the workforce is heading in the wrong direction. It is important to help women reenter the market and begin to rebuild their careers. Companies need to search out talented women with specific skill sets which will prevent them from the high costs of continual turnover.

There are five ways in which leaders in the business world can help when it comes to getting women back into the labor market after the pandemic.

There are five ways in which leaders in the business world can help when it comes to getting women back into the labor market after the pandemic.

1. Offering a pandemic leave of absence.

There is a law called The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which enables those employees who are eligible to take up to 12 work weeks of leave during a 1-year period for specific family and medical situations. However, it has its limitations and has not been helpful during the pandemic in helping women and their families.

Because there is a lack of government policies, it is necessary for companies to step in and to draw women back into their businesses and organizations. By offering pandemic leave of absence for a period of 12-18 months can be very helpful. The leave can be unpaid but should cover benefits. At the end of the leave these companies would be obligated to ensure employment at the same level and salary but does not have to guarantee the same job.

For these companies the criteria for those receiving their pandemic leave policy could be aimed at women who were known to be high performers before the pandemic and who were forced to leave because their childcare and school options were no longer available. This policy enables companies to retain them within the company and at the same job level. For sure women will appreciate this support and will, in turn, prove to be loyal employees when they are in a position to return and not seek employment elsewhere.

2. Removing the pandemic gap year bias

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Women who had no option but to leave their employment are likely to experience bias because of the gap that will appear on their resume. Unfortunately, many people who have gaps in their resume are looked at as lacking ambition and are less likely to get interviewed.

It is important that companies and organizations urge women to be honest about the reason for the gap in their resumes, that is ‘the pandemic gap year’. Companies need to publicly announce that they have no intention of discriminating against those who had to leave the workforce during the pandemic and are happy to accept these women back into employment.

3. Put together a diverse lineup of candidates

It is important to check that there are no other biases that are preventing women candidates from being considered for opportunities. If, for instance, there are two women candidates for a job, a woman has a greater chance of getting hired if there are two women in the group of finalists.

Those doing the hiring need to be educated on diverse candidate slates prior to them being implemented. There are tools like Greenhouse that can track data and will improve hiring decisions. It is also possible to partner with companies, like The Rich Talent Group or Mathison which will help to source talented women candidates. These search firms act as advisors to candidates and also companies and are helping to get rid of the stigma around women returning to work.

4. Return to work programs

These returnship programs are becoming more popular and attract talented individuals to the organizations that are offering them. It is now the time to create more of these programs for women wishing to return to the workplace after the pandemic. Some are already up and working.

For example, the Fitch Group Women Returners is a full-time paid internship, lasting 10 weeks. It is for financial professionals wishing to return to their former careers. Another is Hubspot’s Returners Program, offered twice yearly, which is for a period of 20 weeks. The program teaches skills and support and has the potential of finding full time employment. A further example is Path Forward which helps many firms like Netflix, Walmart and PayPal set up returnships. It is reported that over 80 percent of those who were part of a program supported by Path Forward have been hired by the companies where they completed the program.

5. Reskill women workers

It would be wise for companies in industries that are predicted will quickly return to normal after the pandemic to reskill women in some of these programs. After completing these programs these women should be placed in positions and mentored during a transition period. It would be a good move for companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon who did extremely well during the pandemic to reinvest some of their profits into providing payment for women to enroll in programs that will enable them to upgrade and upskill.

Nathalie Nicole Smith states that working hard and staying true to yourself are sure ways to win in life.

The time has come for companies to support their female employees, help them to return to the workforce following the pandemic and to ensure that women’s progress in the workforce does not spiral backwards.