OutWOMEN Discussion: Women’s Equality & COVID-19

To kick off the first installment of this monthly OutWOMEN event, the conversation was centered around women’s equality during COVID-19 and what we can do to continue pushing equality forward.

The first episode of the OutWOMEN Vodcast series featured Sharon Lewis, Hogan Lovells’ Global Head of Financial Institution, Lanaya Irvin, President of the Center for Talent Innovation, and OutNEXT alum, and was moderated by Kenya Simon, Manager of Member Relations for Out Leadership.

Watch the full episode below.

The episode opened up with a general conversation about the disproportionate impact the current pandemic is having on women. Given that 76% of teachers are women, 91% of nurses are women and 71% of wait staff are women, the panel addressed whether gender equality progress is at risk of backsliding post COVID-19. And, what are the best ways to navigate their present and future for what we now know are essential jobs.

A few parallels were made between now and the 2008 financial crisis where severe economic disruption led to positive change, including more time for parental leave in the UK’s sick leave policies. Sharon Lewis also pointed out two major takeaways from the COVID-19 experience will be an appreciation for roles and industries that were devalued in the past. This recognition of what are clearly essential jobs and a newfound appreciation for the contribution women make to the economy should lead to better representation in leadership roles.

The discussion also touched on talent and what this means for all of the efforts companies have made to increase their representation of women and, specifically, LGBT+ women within their organizations. With digitization and so many businesses moving what they can to remote and online functions, the conversation turned towards women in STEM and how the effort to increase the numbers in those industries may be more important now than ever before.

Lanaya Irvin cited CTI’s women in STEM research which found that a large factor for women entering and staying in STEM roles is having sponsorship and mentorship opportunities. The conclusion is that business leaders offer opportunities to facilitate allyship and mentorship during COVID-19 and the aftermath.