Reflections on 2021 and the State of Business in 2022 Through the Lens of The Great Resignation and Gender Equality

The Great Resignation and Gender Equality

2021 has seen society globally and locally disrupted and transformed in micro and macro ways. Our corporate and business clients are adjusting and transforming because the new normal is continually evolving. The Great Resignation began in 2021, and stats demonstrate it is closely tied to issues of gender equality. The numbers also show it isn’t slowing down. 


The Great Resignation began in April of 2021, when a record-setting 3.8 million workers quit their jobs. Many sought better pay, benefits, working conditions. Inequality makes for a toxic environment, so it’s no surprise that women led the way in resignations. In 2021, more women than men left the workforce, and fewer women are taking new jobs. One driver is the necessity of work-life balance — two out of every three families’ caregivers are women, and the pandemic has increased family caregivers’ demands.


The exodus of women from the workforce has magnified the structural gender barriers that have long existed. The issue, however, isn’t a women’s issue. It’s everybody’s issue because before the pandemic women held a majority of the country’s jobs. As explained by economist Luke Pardue, this is a red flag for our economy. He stated in an interview with CBS News, “We’re not going to see a full, equitable recovery until women return to the labor force in equal rates to men.”


So, what to do? MLG helps our corporate and business clients with a variety of legal matters. Now, we are also having conversations to help our clients examine their business models, cultures, and HR practices. Without good employees to power your business, your customers will be impacted, and you may not be in business for long. The consequences of gender equality in the workplace have moved beyond conversation. They are being heard where it hits the hardest — the bottom line — and many businesses are trying to determine the best path forward. 


All that has transpired in 2021, and previously, has brought us to this place. And in 2022, it has been predicted that the Great Resignation will continue. Businesses are bracing themselves, and a new CareerArc/Harris Poll conducted in November indicates that 23% of Americans surveyed are still planning resignations in the next 12 months. Over a third of those said it was based on their desire for better working conditions. 


As we look to 2022, what should businesses do to attract and retain good employees? How do you provide better working conditions and re-architect your structural workforce foundation to create gender equality? Here are a few ways to begin.


1. In-office and at-home work hybrid mix

Craft flexible policies that focus on what employees deliver and their results versus where they work. This allows flexibility for family caregivers and parents, for example, and it shifts the focus from quantity and location to the quality of the employee and their results. Include offering remote productivity tools to set your employees up for success and make collaboration easy and effective.


2. Culture that integrates productivity, development, and wellbeing

A company that cares about its employees sees that reflected in work quality and its customers’ experiences. From investments in high-quality health care, retirement benefits, mental health solutions, time off to recharge, paid sick leave to heal, parental leave, tuition assistance, and more — these investments foster a culture of care and connection that improve overall wellbeing and productivity.   


3. Your brand matters

Glassdoor’s 2022 workforce predictions include the expectation that employees and consumers continue to demand and prioritize a company’s actions regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The same holds true for corporate social responsibility in other areas, too. The triple bottom line of people, planet, profit is a measuring stick that job seekers and the public are regularly using. The rise in B Corporations across the globe, tripling in the last five years, for example, is proof.  


If 2021 and the pandemic have taught us anything, it is that we are in this together. And our solutions and successes are best achieved together. Under this framework, companies cannot focus solely on the bottom line. Instead, in 2022 more than ever, companies need to take a 360-degree approach to business. The Great Resignation does not discriminate; therefore, the best defense is a good offense — sustainable, long-term, equitable business practices.

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