Dear Working Women: Before You Go, Negotiate

Dear Working Women: Before You Go, Negotiate

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to weigh on the American workplace, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is taking a special toll on women.

The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that of the 1.1 million people who left the workforce in September, 80% were women. That’s 865,000 women who no longer contribute to our economy (or bring additional funds into their families). And research shows that this is just the beginning.

Women do a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare during the pandemic – around 30 additional hours per week, according to reports. We are now seeing the results of this as more women leave the workforce.

This trend could hit the marketing and advertising industries particularly hard. According to an ANA study from 2019, women not only make up two-thirds of the industry, but also because the advertising business has been criticized for being not family-friendly.

Unfortunately, this bloodbath only gets worse. A recent report from McKinsey / found that one in four women in companies in America is considering downgrading their careers or leaving the workforce altogether. That could remove another 2 million women from the workforce and wipe out six years of profits.

While this pandemic will come to an end at some point, the damage it does to women in the workplace could last for decades.

How can we contain the losses? Temporary housing will help keep more women on the workforce during the pandemic and in the decades that follow. But not enough companies offer this. So women have to ask.

If you are thinking about quitting, my message to you is: Before you go, negotiate.

Think about what you need to further support your company during this time. Some ideas are:

  • A temporary grant to cover the cost of additional childcare
  • A changed schedule for managing childcare requirements
  • A temporary scholarship to rent an office so that you can get your work done outside of your home
  • A relocation bonus if you move elsewhere (e.g. closer to family who can help with childcare)
  • An administrative assistant or an additional team member to delegate less impact work so you can focus on important projects

I hear from HR professionals that very few women negotiate before walking out the door. We shouldn’t be surprised. Research by the Gesellschaft für Personalmanagement (SHRM) shows that fewer women negotiate than men, and when they do, they have less trust. This difference is widely viewed as contributing to the gender pay gap, but during this pandemic we see it adding to a gender work gap.

When you’ve figured out what to ask for, prepare your question. Find facts where you can: other companies doing this, the added value it brings to your company, etc. Then, upon request, make your inquiry about the benefit to the company. For example, the cost of replacing an employee is typically between 125% and 200% of the employee’s salary. Therefore, companies would much rather keep great employees than identify, hire and train new ones.

While this pandemic will come to an end at some point, the damage it does to women in the workplace could last for decades. To avoid this, companies need to offer their employees more temporary support and women need to feel empowered to ask for what they need.