How will Covid affect women’s career progression?
The number of promotions in the last 12 months was 48 per cent lower than the previous year, according to a survey published last week. It’s not surprising, given the uncertainty and upheaval of Covid, with so many workers furloughed. Seeking promotion may have been the last thing on people’s minds.
The problem comes when promotions begin again in earnest because what will they be based on? Will they be based on the last months of Covid working? If so, how will that affect women in particular, who, research shows, have been doing the bulk of the homeschooling and childcare and may have had to reduce their hours or work flexibly to make it through the last months? Will they be exhausted and reluctant to take on new responsibilities or will they feel that, having been able to cope with all of that, a promotion – when children are safely back at school – could be a walk in the park? Will they need more encouragement to apply for a promotion through line managers, mentors or sponsors?
More importantly, will employers take into account all that extra stuff people have been doing during Covid when they weigh up who deserves a promotion? And will the extra stuff they have been doing and the skills it brings finally get some acknowledgement?
The ability to teach algebra while on a Zoom call while also handling questions on the themes in Othello, is not something that, in normal times, comes in handy and there has been a backlash against multi-tasking in the last years [better to focus on one thing and do it well, the experts say, which would be good in an ideal world, but often multitasking is a necessity].
Yet there are skills involved in being able to manage all these many different tasks, to organise your day in some sort of way and prioritise what needs to be done, to reach the point where you want to scream and to find ways to let out that inner scream while continuing to keep the show on the road, to be able to learn new stuff fast [modal verbs anyone?], adapt constantly to new demands and to also find it all too much and sob in a corner – to know that sobbing in a corner is okay and that you can get through this.
Whatever happens, employers need to understand the multitude of different experiences people have had during Covid, the multitude of ways that they have been changed by Covid, and think about how we can all move forward in ways that acknowledge that legacy.