A Pink Pandemic Recovery Plan

By Kath Greenhough

The Pink Pandemic has taken an incredible toll around the world. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, at our current trajectory, East Asia and the Pacific (including A/NZ) will take another 168 years to close the gender gap — which means we will not see gender parity in our lifetimes.

We’ve identified four paths to recovery. These include female empowerment, effective allyship, organisational support, and societal responsibility.  Each can work together to advance women in the workplace and help regain the ground women have lost to the pandemic.

Regaining power and influence

For all women, whether currently in the workforce or not, it’s important to keep skills and mindsets agile, transferable, and relevant. This can be accomplished through connection, competency, and community.

Perhaps the most important thing women can do now is develop meaningful connections. Support systems are more vital now than ever before. Yours might include mentors, sponsors, friends, or family members who have helped you along your career journey. 

During this time, it’s also essential for women to retain and develop new competencies. How can your strengths, abilities, and mindset help you down the road? Today, every company is a technology company, so think about how new skills might help set you up for success. Embrace a growth mindset to build confidence and competence in the face of change. 

Women can also use this time to engage in non-work leadership. Volunteering for a non-profit or within a community is a great way to develop leadership skills and build relationships with others. And those same leadership skills can be transferred to a work environment.

Empowering through advocacy

The second path is allyship. Allies may be male peers, women, or non-binary individuals in a position of power to advocate for women. We all must engage in “intentional allyship” to enact real change.

So, where do we focus as allies? There are three primary areas: awareness, advocacy, and action. 

As an ally, you must work on your own personal awareness and seek opportunities to understand any implicit or unconscious biases you may have. 

Allies must use their voice to advocate and influence others on behalf of women. Experienced allies should sponsor women and speak up against misconceptions and negative micro-behaviours. Avoid bystander syndrome and focus on intentional enablement. 

Finally, there’s action. Allies must not only “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.” To promote genuine change as an ally, we must be active, not passive. Host women’s gatherings, volunteer at or donate to organisations that support women and girls, be relentless in the pursuit of justice and equality, and for those fortunate to be in a leadership position and have a seat at the table, use your voice to advocate on behalf of other women who cannot.

Supporting female talent

Organisations have a dual responsibility: an obligation to develop an immediate response to the “pink pandemic” and a need to focus on long-term, sustainable solutions for women’s development and advancement. According to McKinsey, company profits and share performance can be nearly 50 per cent higher when women are well represented at the top. 

Organisations should focus on three key areas: empowerment, enablement, and engagement. 

Empowerment ensures the advancement of women in the workforce. As an organisational leader, you must apply conscious empowerment to ensure that power structures enable diversity without diminishing it. 

We also need organisations to enable women by investing heavily in upskilling, reskilling, and developing women in the workplace. 

Finally, organisations need to remain engaged with their present and future female employees. They must review employee benefits and strengthen the resources necessary for women, like healthcare, wellness, maternity leaves, flexible schedules, and support for childcare and eldercare.

Giving women an equal say

Whether the goal is to address the Pink Pandemic's repercussions or attain equity and equality for the world’s women in the future, society has a responsibility to roughly half its constituents to level the field. We can do so by focusing on three key elements: status, support, and sustainability.

It begins with granting women the status they deserve in society. This achieves two important goals. It elevates women and puts them on equal footing with men, opening more opportunities and ensuring women have a voice when decisions are made. And it raises the status of women’s issues so they cannot be ignored or pushed aside.

Society needs to support women with educational and employment opportunities that match those afforded to men. Their equal rights in all endeavours must be granted — and protected — by law.

And advances for women must be permanent and sustainable, so that future generations of girls and women can move on from the struggles of their mothers and grandmothers.

Reversing the Pink Pandemic

Women, allies, organisations, and societies must unite to reverse the Pink Pandemic. We must first recognise the current challenge and then formulate and carry out meaningful plans to enact real change. The power rests in our alignment with each other. 

Today’s widening workforce gender gap will not resolve itself. We must take action to help women overcome new — and legacy — gender biases. 

It’s important to point out that women aren’t the only ones who benefit from improving gender equality. On a larger scale, organisations, industries, and entire nations will be stronger, healthier, more secure, and prosperous when women have equal opportunity and gain.

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