The pandemic pushed women out of the workforce in droves, and I didn’t know how it would affect our business. But we learned that it was no time to compromise on our mission.
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I’m the CEO of Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women. Our mission is to create a gender equitable workplace by offering 100% free resources to help women throughout their careers and working with companies actively committed to hiring more women in their workplaces.
As the employment rate for women dropped to the lowest it’s been in 30 years and millions of women left or were forced to leave the workplace, our community was left reeling. Every day since the beginning of March 2020 I’ve read through dozens of articles and community posts on FGB about women struggling with stress and anxiety either because of the amount of extra work they were suddenly taking on, or because they had recently lost their jobs and didn’t know where to go next. With so many companies no longer hiring, entire industries being put on pause, and women taking on more caretaking and schooling responsibilities at home, many women were forced to put themselves and their careers on hold.
Running a company that helps women get jobs, I mentally braced myself for the worst. I feared women would no longer be able to find jobs (on our platform or anywhere else) and questioned whether we had enough resources to help them either persist at work or be able to return to the workforce.
But that didn’t happen. Instead our community doubled during the pandemic and we quickly adapted to offer resources both companies and women needed during an extremely challenging time.
Here’s what I learned matters most in times of crisis:
1. People need people. Create communities where you can.
Everyone is craving connection, whether they’re employed or unemployed, and finding ways to connect individuals beyond the Zoom happy hour is really important right now. The community we’ve created on Fairygodboss has been a great support system for many women struggling. Whether it’s through small groups, mentorship pairings, or a community post, giving people the opportunity to connect with someone outside of their daily life is refreshing and has helped many women feel less alone.
Not every community has to look the same. My co-founder has been hosting exclusive conversations about how to advocate for yourself in a virtual world and how to combat burnout to the women employed by our corporate partners. These sessions have been a great way to connect women with their colleagues (many of whom they’ve never met or haven’t seen in months!) and gives them a safe space to voice their concerns and get practical support for their struggles and feelings.
2. Meet people where they are (wherever they are).
Everyone has had a different experience this past year and although my company has always offered a long list of free resources aimed at helping women throughout their careers, we quickly saw that we needed to do even more. So we increased our virtual offerings, scheduled more virtual recruiting events with employers who were hiring, and created various groups on the site to better connect women with one another. We also offered over 100 free resume reviews and launched a job search bootcamp through which my co-founder and I are personally mentoring six women who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
Everyone needs something different right now. Some women need more flexibility in their work schedules or a break from meetings one day a week, some want more hands-on advice in their careers or job searches, and some just want someone encouraging to talk to. This is a time for listening rather than making assumptions about what people are going through.
3. Diversity and inclusion efforts are still important during a crisis.
New research found that nearly half of all women say that a company’s stance on racial and gender equality will affect their next job search. Even (or especially) in times of crisis, women are paying attention to what companies are doing to create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. Considering that 55% of all job losses from last year belonged to women, showcasing your D&I efforts will be important in trying to win over top talent as they return to the workforce or look for new opportunities after staying in place out of a sense of necessary security.
Within my own company, I’ve put measures in place to ensure that D&I stays a priority and we are holding ourselves accountable with not only our employees but with our community, investors, and other stakeholders. We implemented diverse slates for hiring, set goals to increase representation of under-represented groups and publish and update all these results transparently. It is all hard work when you’re also trying to run a high-growth company, but having a double bottom line is something we believe is not only possible but makes us much stronger.
Related: The Motherhood Recession