How Careers For Women Have Evolved Post The Pandemic5 minute
Just as you scroll on your phone reading, somewhere a woman is grieving over her recently lost job, another is considering freelancing as her alternative career option, and someone else is contemplating about turning home-cooked food into a business idea. If you’re one amongst them, take a deep breath before you read any further and know that you’re not alone in this.
Will we need to reinvent ourselves for remote working jobs? Should we consider freelance gigs to be the future? Do we have to look for an all-new career option post this crisis? The uncertainty looming over our heads about what’s next is painful. However, one thing is clear, the world of work will not be the same.
India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economy has one of the lowest rates of female employment. This abysmal trend has worsened over the last decade. And COVID-19 is another big threat bringing further losses. While the virus seems to be deadlier in men, the economic consequences have hit women harder.
Firstly, the sectors facing the brunt are those with higher concentration of women workers- be it leisure, hospitality, health care, education, or retail.
Secondly, to no surprise, employers are taking disproportionate decisions to lay off women as they are not seen as the ‘primary breadwinners of the family’ and thus easy to let go when compared to men.
WORK, WOMEN AND VIRUS
Is your job at risk?
As per the report by The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) in April, millions of young workers in their 20s have been left jobless since the lockdown in March. Also, over one-fourth of India’s working-age population is unemployed due to the pandemic. The number of women in home-based work and self-employment are high in India. This means a large number of women will lose work and in turn not receive the benefits of contractual paid leave policies unlike in formal sector jobs. 70% of health and social workers in the world are women, according to WHO.
This means, the majority of healthcare and social workers are women, which puts them in frontline and at high risk of catching the disease, thus increasing the distress on this part of the workforce exceedingly. Due to the severe economic downturn, the Exports & Imports sector are impacted to a great extent. Women occupy around 60 - 80% of jobs in export manufacturing industries and hence, until the economy gets stable, women will bear the burden of unemployment.
Furthermore, post this pandemic more and more women in desperation for jobs, may be forced to take jobs in informal sectors, or accept underpaid jobs, work overtime and even face layoffs. To sum up, the picture of Indian job market currently is ugly. While all our lives remain uncertain during these tough times, women are facing a more severe and a long-lasting collapse than the other half of the population. Such dire setbacks will undo decades of gains (however small) made by the country to bring up the women workforce.
Jobs after crisis unevenly distributed between the sexes
A study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation And Development (OECD) suggests that the jobs created during and after the crisis will mostly target men, leaving women jobless for a long period. During an economic crisis like COVID-19, in order to create jobs, government generally emphasises on big infrastructure projects, often carried out by men. Such a neglected approach, further contributes to high unemployment trend for women in the country. Women have the ability to be the driving force in recovering country’s economy. However, inclusive policies and suitable jobs need to be created to meaningfully include women. This demands the leaders to devise gender-neutral plans and reform discriminatory practices.
Women working longer
As if the crisis hadn’t burdened women enough, the existing social norms leave them with no choice but to juggle between professional and personal lives. While the schools and colleges being shut down and the new work from home policies was seen as an untimely long vacation for many, the women being the primary caregivers have been weighed down increasingly. For decades, women have done a major part of this unpaid work- of running the household and taking care of children, even if they are out working just like men. This unequal distribution of unpaid work between men and women does not work well for a woman’s career growth or her earning potential.
The post-pandemic life
This lopsided situation is going to lead to many lasting social and economic changes. In order to bring balance in the post-pandemic world- the policymakers will have to make recovery efforts on the grounds of gender equality; the employers will have to devise ways that allow flexibility, work from home alternatives and gender-friendly conditions; and the men in the houses will have to take up some part of chores and childcare work. These mindful moves will prevent women from falling behind once the crisis ends and may promise a more balanced future.
Journey from ‘I don’t know what to do’ to ‘here comes the sun’
While we can’t really predict the future, we can pay attention to what’s going on around us. Yes, things are changing and instead of panicking in response, you can stay ahead in the game by playing out various probable scenarios. The sooner you believe this reality, the faster you’ll be able to jump in and adapt to the changes.
The Game Plan
With this major economic recession, we are all going to face pink-slipped shocks, unpaid leaves and brutally slashed incomes. And to brave these tough challenges, all we need is a well-thought plan. One that helps you understand what the employers would look for post-COVID. One that helps you with a safe exit from this complex reality.
1. KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON
Stay updated. Keep a finger on the pulse of the industry you work in and the overall economy. Set up your news and social feed to connect with key trends related to new work from home opportunities and companies that welcome remote work options. Follow the right people and industries It’s best to track valuable insights into the industry yourself before someone else delivers the news to you.
2. ELIMINATE THE IRRELEVANT
It’s all about focusing your energy. In a normal situation, you’d apply to as many places as possible. However, in a situation like this, it’s best to choose the companies you really want to work for and look for reasonable openings there. Resist your urge to apply anywhere and everywhere. Rather than applying to hundreds of irrelevant job positions, one must direct their energies to a few relevant applications. Focus on quality instead of quantity.
3. STAND OUT FROM THE PACK
Unemployment has smashed its own records, which means a whole bunch of people like you and me are looking for jobs at the same time. And it’s now more than ever that you need a compelling story to stay ahead of the pack.
Construct a clear story of what motivated the job search, and what you are looking for in your future job or your employer. Put together your experiences in a clear crisp format to explain how they shaped the person you are today.
From your cover letter to your LinkedIn profile, make sure you maintain consistency through all your job search assets to make a great first impression. This is essential to come across as trustworthy, reliable and memorable.
If you don’t know where to start, feel free to seek help through free guides, samples and tutorials about personal branding and communication skills on online platforms like LinkedIn Learning or know about the right career path for you through FOITO 's Skill Evaluation
4. ACCEPT THE NEW NORMAL
An important step in learning to thrive is to understand how radically different today’s job search approach is. Coffee meetings and networking events are a thing of the past. It’s the age of online networking.
Even as we practice social distancing, it’s imperative to stay connected with the right people to get the job you’re looking for. And that means, you may have to send initial outreach emails to former colleagues, friends, college-mates, and industry leaders to get to know about the current employment trends.
Relationship building and networking have a far better ROI when looking for the right opportunities. Build a community on your job search portals so you can seek advice on how to restart your career. Be straightforward and specific about the kind of support you need like getting feedback on your resume, asking for an internal referral or making an email-introduction to another contact.
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EMPLOYER
Firstly, since the job opportunities are scarce, it’s best to look for jobs in companies that are recession-proof, are hiring rapidly, and hold a positive future.
Secondly, the employers should be empathetic, flexible, allow remote working, listen actively and be gender-sensitive in their approach to the current scenario. Compassionate leadership is the need of the hour.
Thirdly, make sure the organisations are digitally agile enough to adapt to the changing environment. It is the organisation’s responsibility to re-skill the workforce, bring in technological advancement and work on virtual collaborations.
Lastly, transparency and consistent communication play a key role when choosing a firm to work for, post-COVID. It is imperative to work with people who are honest about the challenges they are facing, share facts and acknowledge successes and fallouts regularly.
6. STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Worrying about your lost job will not take you anywhere. The only way to deal with chaos is by embracing it. And if it implies that you step out of your comfort zone and switch cities, then do it. Look for places with higher job opportunities and jump right in. In times like these, it’s more about survival than choice.
Keeping an open mind about switching geographies will only broaden your job options. Likewise, apart from switching places, be prepared to switch roles too. This is the time when you can try out other roles that are closely related to your previous job.
7. THE COMPETITIVE EDGE
While up-skilling is never an option, you may need it now more than ever. It’s the time to invest in yourself. Start afresh with a beginner’s mindset, imbibe critical thinking, revive your skillset, and learn new tools.
To enjoy a competitive edge, it’s essential to be seen as up-to-date, unique and innovative. Identify online courses to leverage your unique insights and creativity to meet and exceed the expectations of your future employer. Always remember, what guarantees you employment is a clear business need for the skills you’re offering.
8. THE HOT JOBS
The new normal post the pandemic will be quite different from the past. As per the experts at HR firms, there will be fewer full-time jobs in the future. Health care, pharma, medical equipment companies and e-commerce segments will see a gradual increase in business, according to the analysts. Considering the current demands of the people, new jobs will be created in gaming, technology, healthcare, hygiene and edutech segments.
However, these companies will need to come up with innovative solutions, revamp their working ways, and devise new revenue streams to drive economic growth. In just a few months since the crisis,professionals in online education, online sales, online customer support, digital marketing, graphic design and course coding have gained value. Similarly, a sea of change is observed in working habits. Remote working, short-term contracts and freelance work will be new norms in the post-covid world.
9. STAY FLEXIBLE
For the ambitious women of our community, this situation of uncertainty might mean re-setting expectations of career advancement. Being flexible is vital as the number of job seekers in the market will only increase in the coming days. With the desperation on the rise, you may have to set realistic expectations with your employer about your role and salary. In order to stay ahead in the game, it’s your skills that may give you an edge over the rest. Convince the organisation about how you’re a better fit for the role considering your knowledge and values. Prepare hard and stay competitive by identifying and offering the new needs of the organisation.
10. BE OPEN TO OPPORTUNITIES
No opportunity is a bad opportunity. And in a recession like this, where everything is changing so rapidly, one has no choice but to keep up. More and more people may seek contract-based workers for their individual projects. Seize any opportunity that comes your way- be it freelance assignments, short-term contracts, commission-based sales, time-bound projects, paid internships, part-time work, or online teaching. Use your time and efforts to put your skills to good use. Until you land the job you like, this money (however little) could help sustain you.
Women’s employment is one of the strongest influencing factors of women’s empowerment as a whole, and not just to boost a country’s GDP. By empowering women economically, the country can uplift entire families and communities out of hardship and poverty. Supporting women has proven to create powerful and positive benefits to society. And if women continue to drop out of the workforce post-COVID, it will only intensify the damage caused to their position in society. There is a great need to reduce exploitation and create economic opportunities for women during the crisis to ensure the overall growth of the country’s economy.
Despite the unprecedented conditions and uncertainties, you’ve got to pull your socks and stay positive. Instead of grieving and complaining about the situation, you have an option to use the above advice to restart your career and find a job you love. And every time you feel vulnerable, lost, or anxious, get out of your own head and call a friend or a loved one. Talk it out. For all, you know they may help you with a tip or two or even offer support. It is difficult in the beginning but things do fall in place eventually.