As I’m writing this, unemployment applications have reached over 33 million in the U.S, and the impact is seen even more among women and minorities. According to March data from the Department of Labor, last month the unemployment rate for women grew by 0.9%, versus 0.7% for men -- and 60% of the 700,000 jobs eliminated in March were women’s.
While some of this divide may be due to the fact that women are more likely to hold service jobs, which have been some of the hardest hit sectors, it reaches across industries. Just last week, a federal judge dismissed the US Women’s Soccer Team’s lawsuit claiming that they were systematically underpaid compared to the men’s team, a significant setback in their legal battle.
Advertising guru Cindy Gallop says, “We see everyday who should be paid a ton more and who should be paid a ton less. The pandemic presents a huge opportunity to rebalance that -- but we [women] have to make it happen.”
Whether you’re a woman looking for work, a business leader or decision-maker at a company, here are some ways you can help to close the gender pay gap now, and once we’re past the pandemic.
I’ve long been a proponent of putting my money where my mouth is -- which I put into effect by investing in and purchasing from women-owned brands -- but it’s more important than ever.
Human capital executive Daisy Auger-Dominguez says, “Whereas before I may have more quickly shopped from a larger supermarket chain and online retailer or tried to discover new restaurants, I’m now making far more conscious choices about where I spend my money, including taking out from local restaurants and stores within blocks of my house that I know are at risk of closing.”
Business and thought leaders
As companies roll out cost-saving measures like layoffs and furloughs, it’s time for them to check their biases twice about whom they’re laying off -- and why.
Look at the effective leadership of female heads of state during this pandemic as an example. “Women have led better during COVID because they have a backbone of fucking steel. They get shit done because of all the shit they had to take to get to where they are,” Gallop says. “It’s really important that we as women highlight what it is about us that deserves to be paid as much, if not more, right now.”
Companies should also stay vigilant: “Conduct gender pay gap analysis, acknowledge the findings and take action to rectify any disparities. At the most basic level, view women's rights as human rights, worthy of equity at all times — especially in the midst of a global pandemic where they are holding the world, and what's left of the economy, together,” says Erin Gallagher, a founding partner at Have Her Back.
Women in business
Now might be the time to launch that business you’ve been dreaming up. “There are always opportunities for new solutions that can be monetized,” Auger-Dominguez says. “My advice for women stepping into a new entrepreneurial role is somewhat the same as it would have been a year ago: Get clear on what you need to earn to sustain your lifestyle (that may mean redefining what your lifestyle is), and be prepared to spend the first two to six months building the key infrastructure for your business.”
And now is also the time to build your network. “I encourage entrepreneurs to tap into the power of a network,” says Kristy Wallace, CEO of Ellevate Network. “You don't need to reinvent the wheel when starting a business; many others have expertise and insights that you can leverage to get started faster. Then you can be focused on your special idea, solution, or innovation.”
As we all navigate uncharted waters ahead, the one element we can rely on is community -- especially while times are tough. “Ask for help. For some reason, over time, the notion of asking for help has been equated to weakness. If anything, it's an incredible strength,” says Gallagher. “Anyone who can identify a solution to a problem and express vulnerability in needing others to deliver that solution is a leader. No one can do it alone.”