As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, we watched as women began leaving the workforce in droves. As members of the communications community, we knew the pressures we were under. Often with reduced resources, it was up to us to make sense of it all. Whether it was a rapidly spreading virus or social unrest—what did it mean for our internal workforce, and how should we be messaging externally, if at all? It quickly became critically important to dig in and understand the impacts on our community.
In the summer of 2021, with funding from Edelman and donated executional support from FCB and ENGINE, we fielded a WomenHeard research initiative, a comprehensive nationwide study to understand the mental, familial and financial impacts of Covid-19 on women in the communications field. We invited our Corporate Partners to participate, and Meredith, now Dotdash Meredith, and Bloomberg Media contributed their own proprietary data, adding dimension to the findings. Our 2020-2021 Matrix winners and NYWICI Executive Board provided real world, in-the-trenches experience, which brought the findings to life with perspectives from women at all stages of their careers. We listened and we’re still learning, but now we need to act.
Reflecting on the research, we see two major forces at play stemming from the impacts of the pandemic. The first is the direct financial impact resulting in furloughs, layoffs and general downsizing as businesses reevaluate their priorities or are forced into a rapid evolution of their business models. The second is what the pandemic has exposed in how we work and what we value. Adversity can expose our true identities, and that’s true of human beings as well as organizations. What we’re seeing in the data is the overwhelming lack of suitable support from organizations—and often their leadership—to sustain the wellbeing of their workforces. Workers need longer maternity leave, mental health support and management teams that support them. This is where NYWICI will focus to bring increased clarity as to what changes are needed. We will educate and inform organizations and tell them what’s at stake—they will need to make their own decisions based on what’s best for their businesses.
For 2022 NYWICI programming and beyond, we will focus on how we inspire, educate and connect women. So, when they are starting out, they know what to expect from their employers; when they are mid-level in their careers, they are advocating for what they need; and when they are in leadership roles, they are directly improving the working environments they can influence. Up and down the ranks of our membership, we will rally to support the changes needed. From our research, we discovered that 23% of women in communications looked for a new job—that’s a truly significant number looking for something new and/or something different. Employees don’t leave companies—they leave inadequate managers. We need to train the leaders of today and tomorrow to double down on empathetic leadership styles that embrace diversity and breed the type of inclusion that supports women’s wellbeing. This will ensure workforce stability and set teams up to thrive. It’s about capitalizing on this moment for transformative positive impact.
As we look to the year ahead, our actions will reflect these initiatives. In collaboration with our Corporate Partners, we will work toward solutions that support the WIC community. We all have a stake in seeing this succeed, or the great “She-session” will continue as women leave in search of employers that reflect their own core values.
Georgia Galanoudis, NYWICI President