can employers do to
keep women from quitting? 

Balancing kids, home and job is leaving many women’s careers in jeopardy

January 12, 2021

Millions of women are leaving their careers to take care of their school-age children at home. During the pandemic, the percentage of women in the workforce has significantly declined, leaving a large gap in the talent pool for employers. Learn about what that means for the women themselves, our companies, our families and our economy in this episode of the podcast with guests Gabrielle Harvey, JLL’s Vice President, Portfolio Services, and Julia Georgules, JLL's Director of Research.

James Cook: [00:00:00] It feels like the pandemic is impacting everybody. And that might be true, but women seem to be bearing the brunt of it. Often they're having to take on childcare, proctor, remote learning all while working from home.

and all that pressure. It's pushing women out of the workforce. The percentage of women that are working has fallen since the pandemic hit.

This is building places where we look at the world of commercial real estate through the eyes of the experts that study it every day. My name is James Cook and I research real estate for JLL.

Gabrielle Harvey: [00:00:37] Hi, my name is Gabrielle Harvey. I am a broker on the portfolio services team at JLL.

Julia Georgules: [00:00:43] Hi, I'm Julia Georgules. I'm the director of research at JLL.

James Cook: [00:00:47] I'm so glad you guys were able to join me today because I think this is a topic that we're not hearing enough about, and I'm glad we're going to be able to raise the alarm, you know, so the question really is.

What has the pandemic meant for women in our economy?

Gabrielle Harvey: [00:01:05] So, you know, I became really passionate about this because in may of this year, I had my first child, and came back to the workforce. And honestly, I, I was lucky and fortunate to have childcare and support at home, to do it. But when I came back to the workforce in September, I noticed. Some of my peers and clients, not so lucky.

Julia Georgules: [00:01:25] We've seen the labor force participation rate for women go down over the course of this pandemic. The current figure is. 55.9%. at the beginning of 2020, it was 57.9%.

The other impact that we're seeing is just the amount of. Time management and juggling and the working hours are expanding for a lot of people in this work from home environment. But certainly if you have parents and you're taking care of kids and helping them with remote school during the day, it's impacting your ability to be productive during normal business hours.

And so expanding those working hours, you know, after dinner or before remote school starts, that starts to have an impact on, a person's ability to be productive in the workplace. And also it impacts your ability to, maintain good work-life balance. And over time that creates, burnout and declining productivity. 

James Cook: [00:02:22] That is a really big number. We're talking about the, the workforce participation by women dropped by two percentage points. Is that right?

Julia Georgules: [00:02:32] Yeah. And I think for people who are not familiar with economic employment data, you know, you wouldn't know that that's a significant number, but in growing economies, when we say the economy is doing well on average employment growth rate is roughly 3%.

James Cook: [00:02:49] It's gotta be more difficult as a business and be competitive if you're losing all of these great, employees.

Gabrielle Harvey: [00:02:56] I think that companies are taking a look at this and saying, how can we be more flexible? I think at the beginning of the pandemic, we thought, Oh, people are going to be working remotely, which is more flexible. but employees aren't getting the resources. They need to be effective, while working from home.

Gabrielle Harvey: [00:03:14] You know, one of my best friends who I actually went to grad school with, she has her MBA. She's a career woman, has two children never considered. Leaving the workforce. but just recently told me that she is requesting a sabbatical leave from her company because she feels like she's failing as a mother, as an, as an employee because of the double pressure.

She is going to try to take three months off to focus on her children while they are remote learning, and then return to the workforce. Hopefully when this pandemic is behind.

James Cook: [00:03:42] And I'm sure that story is not unique at all. That's probably very of how many, people are feeling right now.

Julia Georgules: [00:03:50] I think that employers can take steps. To help support their employees right now, by really listening and understanding what are the critical challenges that, their employees are struggling with or what are the, schedules that would be most helpful to help working moms and, and caregivers, balance the needs at home with, childcare or remote schooling and really make it a, company, mission and a part of their values to, really embrace a variety of different needs at this point in time.

And knowing that everybody's nine to five is not going to be the same

James Cook: [00:04:32] So it seems like daycare could be the hot, new amenity of the future office.

Julia Georgules: [00:04:36] It certainly is. we do have research that shows as a part of our, our. Kind of holistic perspective on location through our three 3,300 tool. we have identified eight factors of productivity and one of those factors of productivity is onsite childcare and, employees. through research done by bright horizons employees who had access to onsite childcare reported much less time.

Away from work because they did have that access to the total figure was 68%, reduction in absenteeism,

James Cook: [00:05:18] Are there other ways to make office design or office layout, different to help with this problem? 

Gabrielle Harvey: [00:05:25] I don't think it's necessarily design or layout but I do have a client who's based in the city. And, you know, they always want to be in the city because that was where the best talent was, but the pandemic has them reconsidering that and thinking, is it beneficial for our employees to be in a suburban location where they're closer to their families for some of these childcare issues?

Or are we going to look at a hub and spoke model where we have. You know, a city location and then also a dropdown location in the suburbs for when people can't commute in.

James Cook: [00:05:56] What do you envision the workplace of the future might look like

Julia Georgules: [00:06:00] Policies, around work schedules and, expectations of when people should be, In the office or in a meeting, I think everybody collectively would agree that we've seen the working hours creep during the past nine months. and there are good research reports that have shown that the amount of time people have spent working has, expanded in terms of the number of hours, the amount of time that people are spending.

In meetings has expanded the conference board released an interesting survey from HR professionals. Showing that that those increase in working hours, has also translated into an increase in burnout and an increase in, mental health. challenges.

Gabrielle Harvey: [00:06:49] and I think to add to that too, Julia said, You know, we've proven that we can remote work. I want to come back into the office and I think there's definitely a need to come back into the office, but when life puts a wrench in your plan and you have a doctor's appointment to be able to work from home those days, or if you have a sick child, I think that that work-life balance, it should be more accepted in the future.

And I think that's one good thing that we should take away from the pandemic.

James Cook: [00:07:16] Julia Gabrielle, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about this topic and, you know, it's, it's been a great conversation.

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