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'Pink collar recession' has employers scrambling to return women to the workforce

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Posted at 9:58 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 21:58:10-05

More than 2 million women have left the workforce in what some are calling the "Pink Collar Recession." Many of them have been forced to stay home to manage childcare and virtual learning.

In order to get our economy back, employers are scrambling for answers on how to help women return to the workforce.

“Employers need to understand there is a second pandemic going on,” says Lorna Borenstein, CEO of Grokker.

It's been called so many things: A “second pandemic.” A "she-cession." A "pink collar recession.” Whatever you call it, it has to change.

“As much as we’d like to pretend we’re all in 50/50 relationships, we’re not,” Borenstein said.

Women can't keep up and they're quitting.

At Grokker, Borenstein helps employers assist workers. Right now, that help involves getting women back into the workforce.

“If you remember nothing else from this at all, it’s three words: ‘psychologically safe environment.’ It’s okay to parent out loud; it’s okay to talk about this,” Borenstein said.

She's advising her clients, who are big companies, to do things like make it a healthy environment, shift schedules around and be accommodating.

“Can you help them find childcare? Can you provide a stipend for house cleaning? Can you help them with elder care if there are parents in the home?” Borenstein said.

The recovery starts with caring about your employees, and if you don't, you won't succeed, says Nadya Zhexembayeva, chief reinvention officer at the WE EXIST Reinvention Agency and an expert on how to thrive in chaos.

"I’m the founder of Reinvention Academy, which is the antidote to crisis,” says Zhexembayeva.

She knows a little something about disaster. Getting yourself out of the worst of times was a lesson she learned as a child.

“I was born in the Soviet Union, my whole family lived through one genocide revolution after another and when I was growing up, the Soviet Union collapsed and my work started because there was no food, no opportunities,” Zhexembayeva said. “You had to stand in line for food and figure out how you were going to pay for it.”

She would go on to get her doctorate and study just how companies collapse and succeed in a crisis.

“Unless you use this recession to reinvent your business and do it again and again and engaging women is crucial on that task,” Zhexembayeva said. “You will not be able to stay afloat.”

The crisis, she tells the companies she works with, is not having enough women at work.

“This crisis, this pink recession is a wonderful and horrific but wonderfully important opportunity to reinvent ourselves and to really use the crisis to shed off the things that no longer serve us,” Zhexembayeva said.

Borenstein said no one wants to thank the pandemic, but it has us all reeling to change in order to survive.

"CEOs, CFOs, CHRO’s, boards of directors, the rallying cry is you need to care for your people, and it is so easy to do,” Borenstein said. "Please understand your women are going to leave in droves if you do not act swiftly and quickly and it doesn’t even need to be a discussion.”

Some companies are even forming support groups, which is just one more example of how to make a workplace work for all.