The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the corporate workforce and women have been hit especially hard.

Last week I was fortunate to receive a virtual ticket to a conference based out of New York City (one of the blessings of COVID – virtual tickets to anywhere!). The day started with the reveal of the latest findings from Women in the Workplace, the largest study on the state of women in corporate America – a joint effort of Lean In Org and McKinsey & Company. In this year’s study it was shockingly revealed that due to COVID-19, 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. In a single year, all the gains made in the representation of women in management since the first year of this study could be erased.

In one year!

And nowhere is this more evident than in the gains made by senior women. Women in my demographic, who are sandwiched between aging parents🙋‍♀️, raising children🙋‍♀️, two-career families🙋‍♀️, and those passionate about building their careers and businesses🙋‍♀️.

Today:

  • Working mothers are deeply concerned about how COVID-19 will impact their careers.
  • Senior-level women are experiencing the challenges of COVID-19 against a backdrop of existing bias against women leaders, many of whom are juggling more responsibilities at home.
  • Women of colour already face more barriers than most other groups of employees and are less likely to get support from managers, have strong allies, and are more likely to feel like they can’t bring their whole selves to work.

And while this study focuses on women in corporate roles, this speaks to women building businesses as well. Women juggling family and career, work and life, home, and everything else.

Lean in and McKinsey & Co released the sixth annual Women in the Workplace study last week. The findings are unsettling.Click To Tweet

The impacts of COVID-19 on women – and on mothers, in particular, have been huge. Balancing work and home have become even more challenging. Studies have shown that mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of their family’s housework and childcare during COVID-19. On top of this, mothers are more than twice as likely as fathers to worry that their performance is being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities.

Senior-level women are under enormous pressure. Senior-level women are more likely than men at the same level to feel burned out, under pressure to work more, and “always on.”

Several factors are contributing to this dynamic: senior-level women are more likely than women at other levels to be mothers, more likely than senior-level men to have partners who work full-time, and nearly twice as likely as women overall to be “Onlys” – the only or one of the only women in the room at work. (source: Women in the Workplace study).

And while this research is centred on working women in the workplace, I’m seeing it play out with entrepreneurs and women building businesses as well. This fall, women who have chosen the entrepreneurial way of life in an effort to balance their work and life are finding the juggle more difficult than ever. Children are in a COVID-muddle of a school year that’s in a constant state of change – COVID cases may cause your child to have to suddenly isolate for two weeks and be homeschooled, or perhaps you have chosen online school as the path of choice this year, or worse, illness could (or may have already) struck your family.

I find these challenges frustrating on so many levels. A key one is there always seems to be something that gets in the way of my career or business-building aspirations – if I let them. The pressure on working women to be all things to all people all the time has never been higher.

The pressure on working women to be all things to all people all the time has never been higher – Susan ElfordClick To Tweet

Knowing these challenges and pressures are ever-present is a big reason why I ensure I block my weeks with unmoveable blocks of time where I focus on business-building and strategy time. If I didn’t preserve my business-building efforts and set boundaries my time would evaporate into thin air and I would be left holding everyone else’s balls or priorities – but never my own.

One of the things I do is ensure I punctuate my year with business planning and strategy time – sometimes these come in the form of an organized regular group, like a Business Mastermind, or other times it comes as a Full-day strategic visioning day. It can even look as simple as my #workfromacoffeeshop Wednesdays where I block off a couple of hours to focus on moving something forward in my business, away from the busyness of my regular office tasks and client business.

Whatever it looks like, it’s important that you carve out the time. Or else, the danger is that you won’t have any time left for you or your business and you’ll wonder where the time went and how you “got nothing done.”

Last week I had a conversation with a woman – an accomplished entrepreneur and former corporate employee – who does not like to identify as a woman of colour. She simply wants to be recognized for her good work, to be seen, and to be valued – as we all should, no matter our gender or race or colour. “People want to be seen and acknowledged,” she said to me. “Regardless of their race or gender.”

YES, we do! And so, why do you want your work to be seen and acknowledged? What’s important about it? Why is it important that you do this work NOW, regardless of the Global Pandemic, the challenges of your home life, or the state of the economy? Why is it important that you carve out the time, regardless of everyone else’s priorities?

This is the work you are here to do. I implore you to stay connected to your “why” – even in the midst of all that is going on around you. Stay strong in your purpose, choose how you spend your time with intentionality, and don’t give up.

Don’t let something like a global pandemic dash your daydream. You’ve worked too hard for that.

To your success, in business, in your career, and in life,

Susan Elford

P.S. Want to make sure you’ve put aside time to nurture and grow your business this fall? Learn more about joining the Accelerate Business Retreat or the Accelerate! Mastermind this fall. Applications are now open! Check out my website for all the details.

P.P.S. Enjoyed this article? Subscribe to my newsletter. It’s filled with personal leadership and business resources for professional women and business builders living full and busy lives, just like you.

PR Launchpad Guidebook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach and PR Strategist who especially loves to work with women who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a full and satisfying life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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