Workplace diversity is a hot topic right now in the information technology and financial sectors. It is particularly noteworthy because, over the past decade, inclusion strategies have become business-as-usual for many top organizations, leading some to question whether we should have them at all. Shouldn’t the best, most-qualified person always get the job?
The answer is that, maybe, in a vacuum, the “best candidate wins” methodology could work. But this is a complex issue. Not everyone has access to the same opportunities, meaning diversity tends not to happen on its own. When it does happen, however, it improves not only global equality (which is invaluable) but also business outcomes on numerous levels.
Sadly, we could still be doing better. Even as recently as 2020, well after the development of so many award-winning corporate diversity programs, minority groups showed slow growth in the tech sector, suggesting that existing strategies alone were not enough. And then a global pandemic struck, throwing what progress we had made into disarray.
COVID-19 and Why We Aren’t Doing Better
Despite what I just wrote, we were, until recently, doing better than ever before—but then COVID-19 hit, and 2.5 million women lost their jobs. As a mom who is also a C-level executive at Amzur Technologies, this statistic shocked me, and I’m not the only one.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Bengi Lynch, director of digital marketing at Amzur. “March 8 was International Women’s Day, and yet more women have lost their jobs due to COVID than they did because of the Great Depression. In fact, between 1930 and 1940, the number of women in the workplace actually rose.”
So, what happened in 2020? In short, the pandemic exacerbated inequalities that already existed. Women were being welcomed into more and more roles—including leadership—as we made big strides forward thanks to diversity initiatives, but when the pandemic started, it suddenly changed everything about the way we work. As more and more people began working from home, and as children began learning from home as well, traditional gender roles came back in full force, demanding that many women act as employees, caregivers, and housekeepers all at once.
“It doesn’t help that, statistically, women in tech are more likely to be laid off than their male counterparts,” said Rani Nemani, president of Amzur. “With fewer women getting into tech in the first place due to obstacles and bottlenecks in STEM education, we’re essentially seeing the long-term consequences of a system originally built upon a lack of gender equality.”
This loss of female workers will have ripples felt throughout our lives and businesses. As women continue to struggle to find employment, the gender pay gap will broaden and future earning potential will drop—consequences that will be felt across the U.S. economy, given that women represent more than half the population. Forecasts suggest that these factors could even lead to a deeper and more persistent recession.
What Can We Do Now?
The solution for businesses is relatively simple: Start pursuing diversity and inclusion initiatives with renewed vigor, despite the pandemic. Take additional steps to ensure you are extending opportunities to the most deserving parties, not limiting your job offerings to particular groups, and educating employees on how to counteract unconscious biases.
Unfortunately, companies alone are not the entirety of the problem. As mentioned above, traditional gender roles seem to have re-emerged with a vengeance, forcing women into positions where they must choose between their professional and personal lives.
One way to combat this problem is for men to step up, sharing the load of earning, parenting, housekeeping, and more. It will not be easy, but these are not easy times. Women should also try to set firm boundaries with employers; if you cannot work during a certain time of day, say so. Be open and honest about what you need so that your work and home lives can coexist. Finally, support organizations like The Mom Project, which provides a place where female professionals can look for jobs, network, and stay active in the workforce.
Women cannot be expected to always be “on.” Something has to give. If it doesn’t soon, the impacts will be felt across all our lives, at work and at home. As we come out of the pandemic, new challenges arise for women in the workplace.
In March, Amzur was awarded as a Top Workplaces 2021 honor by Tampa Bay Times. Our employees were given the opportunity to list their experiences with a third-party survey administered by employee engagement technology partner Energage LLC. The anonymous survey uniquely measures 15 culture drivers that are critical to the success of any organization, including alignment, execution, and connection, just to name a few.
This is just proof of time well spent building a great culture and environment at a virtual and remote workplace. It’s our deep-seated certainty that this is a turning point for Amzur as our culture stems from female leadership and global culture.
To learn more about how Amzur fosters diversity and inclusion in our workplace, reach out today.
Vanaja Malem, financial controller at Amzur, leads the Finance and Accounting teams in managing budgets and forecasts and overseeing preparation for all financial reporting. She is a certified management accountant (CMA) with certifications in SAP(FI/CO) and Oracle Fusion Financials. Malem holds graduate degrees from Nagarjuna University and the Institute of Cost Accountants of India. She advocates for fiscal responsibility and accountability among the businesses in her community.