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McKinsey & Co. had taken up the subject of gender diversity and women in workplace six years ago. This effort, conducted in partnership with, tracks the progress of women in corporate America.  While other countries are not studied directly, but inferences can be drawn based on social and cultural differences. Furthermore, COVID19 is still living with us and its resurgence is already happening in many parts of the world. The effects of COVID19 on work is therefore still highly relevant.

Here are some excerpts from the report along with some commentary about Pakistan.

The data set this year reflects contributions from 317 companies that participated in the study and more than 40,000 people surveyed on their workplace experiences; more than 45 in-depth interviews were also conducted to dive deeper on the issues. These efforts were in the field from June to August of 2020, although the pipeline data represents employer-provided information from calendar year 2019.

The events of 2020 have turned workplaces upside down. Under the highly challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are struggling to do their jobs. Many feel like they’re “always on” now that the boundaries between work and home have blurred. They’re worried about their family’s health and finances. Burnout is a real issue.

Women in particular have been negatively impacted. Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security. The pandemic has intensified challenges that women already faced. Working mothers have always worked a “double shift”—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this possible—including school and childcare—have been upended. Meanwhile, Black women already faced more barriers to advancement than most other employees.2 Today they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community. And the emotional toll of repeated instances of racial violence falls heavily on their shoulders. [in Pakistan, we should read lower income communities which are marginalized for various reasons]

As a result of these dynamics, more than one in four women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable just six months ago: downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely. This is an emergency for corporate America. Companies risk losing women in leadership—and future women leaders—and unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity.

The pressures of the pandemic are driving some employees—and especially women—to consider downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. The following factors predict whether an employee considers downshifting their career or leaving the workforce:

  • lack of flexibility at work
  • feeling like they need to be available to work at all hours, or “always on”
  • housework and caregiving burdens due to COVID-19
  • worry that their performance is being negatively judged because of caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic
  • difficulty sharing with their teammates or managers the challenges they are facing
  • feeling blindsided by decisions that affect their day-to-day work
  • feeling unable to bring their whole self to work

Although these factors hurt all employees, some groups of women experience certain challenges at higher rates. For example, mothers are more likely than fathers to worry that their performance is being negatively judged due to their caregiving responsibilities. Women in senior-leadership roles are more likely than men at the same level to feel as though they are “always on.” And Black women are more likely than women and men overall to feel like they can’t bring their whole selves to work.

Before this year, Women in the Workplace research had consistently found that women and men leave their companies at comparable rates. However, due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce3 . If these women feel forced to leave the workplace, we’ll end up with far fewer women in leadership—and far fewer women on track to be future leaders. All the progress we’ve seen over the past six years could be erased.”

Most of the findings in McKinsey report resonate with the situation of women in Pakistan. Corporates of Pakistan have yet to take participation of women in the corporate management seriously. Most of the senior corporate managers are personally uncomfortable with or outrightly against having women in the workforce, much less in the management team. Inability to travel and dealing freely with customers and employees are oft cited reasons. Rise of religious sentiments across whole corporates is also contributing to anti-women strategies. Women in such corporates are hired only under compulsion, because women are getting better educated and force their entry based on merit. On the other end of the spectrum are corporates which would like to hire women primarily for the purpose of display. They look for the talent of a particular kind only. All said and done, Pakistan is way behind in putting half of its workforce to proper use and take due benefit out of it.

To be Continued……

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