Over the last couple of weeks, the UK government announced there will be a new push to get more women in boardrooms. This five-year plan will attempt to improve gender diversity in senior leadership, with fresh targets to make at least 40% of every FTSE 100 board female. This directive couldn’t come a moment too soon, as reports suggest that women bore much of the brunt of pandemic family responsibilities and job losses.
Picking up the slack
A recent US-focussed study from management consultants McKinsey and the World Economic Forum found that women were disproportionately affected by the changes the pandemic brought. In the report, they describe the story of Farida Mercedes, an HR executive at a global cosmetics brand. After 17 years at the company, she was on the cusp of a promotion, but when the pandemic hit, her young sons needed support with homeschooling.
She and her husband never discussed who would sacrifice their job to care for their children. Although she states it’s a burden she took on willingly, leaving her job was a hard choice – and she wasn’t alone. She was just one of the 2.3 million women who left the US workforce in 2020, accounting for 53% of US labour-force exits. The following April, a report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a concerning trend: of the 328,000 jobs gained that month, 102% of new positions belonged to men.
Returning more resilient and determined
Certainly, the effects of the pandemic have the potential to turn back the clock on decades of progress. If the statistics from the World Economic Forum are anything to go by, decisive action needs to be taken to recover gains. This is crucial to the success of businesses going forward, as if anything, women have shown remarkable resilience and determination throughout the pandemic.
This dynamism should be translated into boardrooms to help UK businesses bounce back. Northern Irish entrepreneur and renowned businesswoman, Mairead Mackle, agrees that there are important and inherent qualities that female leadership brings. At the launch of her new book “Voices of Leadership”, which profiles 16 unique female leaders across industries around the world, Mairead outlined what she thinks makes female leaders exceptional:
“I have always believed in the power of female leadership and been inspired by the fact that women lead with purpose, courage, and conviction. As a female entrepreneur, I love to champion and support female representation at every opportunity, acutely aware of how much women contribute both to the economy and within their communities.”
Looking to the future
Overcoming the challenges the pandemic brought will be a long-term project. This international crisis has created many setbacks economically and socially, and the impact on women in the workforce is a particular obstacle. It’s encouraging that the UK government is taking measures to ensure there are more women in boardrooms, as we’ll need their unique leadership qualities now more than ever.