Can Technology Help Curb The ‘Shecession’?

Kim Lessley, Director of Solution Marketing, SAP

The economic impact of COVID-19 is being felt across the globe, but it has not been distributed equally. The Guardian reported that by the end of April, women’s job losses had erased a decade of employment gains. In a situation that is mirrored in many countries, the U.S. is in the midst of its first ‘shecession’ – an economic downturn where job and income losses are affecting more women than men.

It’s vitally important for the benefit of everyone in society that this disparity be resolved, that burdens and stresses be shared equitably, and that they are minimized where possible. Technology has enabled many businesses to adapt and continue operating in this remote-first era, so can technology also play a role in reversing the shecession at both the business and individual levels?

I had the pleasure of taking part in a recent SAP Think Tank Radio show on this topic, hosted by Bonnie D. Graham. We were joined by two accomplished female leaders: Dina Patel, Partner at PwC and Margot C. Goodson, North American Head of Diversity and Inclusion at SAP. Here is a selection of insights from the discussion.

Actions that individuals and organizations can take

With so many women currently either underemployed or out of work, we began by exploring ways that individuals can reskill and upskill, as well as what organizations can do to create more equitable hiring opportunities.

Technology provides countless options to learn something new, often for free or at a very low cost. For example, podcasts are easily accessible and can be consumed at the listener’s convenience. Many organizations and colleges are also offering free courses and certifications to help people prepare to re-enter the workforce – staying engaged is one critical aspect of coming back stronger.

[Learn more about SAP’s Human Experience Management solutions around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion here.]

Patel also believes learning opportunities can be created from everyday activities, like tuning into a podcast during a daily walk. Sometimes the challenge can be finding the time, but consider how familiar we are with using time management and scheduling apps for work. Using them at home can help to reduce the daily burdens placed on women by empowering others in the household to help with daily responsibilities, freeing up more time for personal learning and development.

We then turned our attention to organizational change. With access to more people data than ever before, HR leaders have a real opportunity to reduce bias and create equity. Data analysis can help to improve hiring, retention, and development processes and, as Goodson put it, “Data is the key to ensuring the opportunities are as ubiquitous as the talent. Analytics will get us there with intentionality and strategy around the execution.”

A future based on flexibility

All the speakers agreed that the future looks bright. As an example, Patel pointed to the widespread adoption of remote working as proof for employers that people can work effectively from anywhere. If geography is no longer a barrier, the talent pool widens and this gives women, as Patel said, “the opportunity to be in workforces where we wouldn’t normally be.”

The rise of flexible working may also reduce the gender pay gap. While women previously had to choose jobs that allowed them to balance work with life obligations, this should no longer be such a limiting factor. We’re in an era defined by technologies that have enabled flexible working to be the norm.

Adding a new angle to the idea of flexibility, Goodson predicted a rise in the number of entrepreneurs fueled by three powerful forces born from COVID-19: creativity, necessity, and technology.

These new ventures will, in Goodson’s words, “catapult us beyond the need to simply return to employee-employer relationships.” Instead, they will enable the generational impact and wealth needed for lasting, equitable change.

Technology to enable change

While a cultural shift toward flexible working will benefit women returning to the workforce, transformational change depends on HR leaders leveraging the best of new technologies to cultivate inclusivity and diversity.

You can learn more about SAP’s Human Experience Management solutions around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion here.

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