Changing Realities for Women and Work: The Impact of COVID-19 and Prospects for the Post-Pandemic Work World

A special issue of Merits (ISSN 2673-8104).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2023) | Viewed by 34026

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Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Institute for Social Innovation, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, USA
Interests: gender; leadership; commons; education; evaluation
Department of Communication, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD 21801, USA
Interests: diverse leadership and cultures; politics and civic engagement; freedom of speech; media studies and new technologies
Master of Arts in Leadership, Trinity Western University, 305-5900 Minoru Blvd, Richmond, BC, V6X 2A9, Canada
Interests: cross-cultural perspectives of healthcare utilization of Asian immigrants; understand healthy aging cross-culturally; diversity and inclusion; transformational servant leadership; leadership and gender; assessment (VR-12, MDS-HC, Hogan, TJTA, Birkman, GMI) and outcome evaluation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The challenges women face in the workforce have been widely researched for several decades. Unequal access to certain professions and the education required for entrance, unequal pay with men, the burden of unpaid care work, the inability of women to rise to senior leadership positions, the impact of discrimination on the ability of women of color to advance, and sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace, among many other issues, have prevented women from enjoying the same privileges as men at work. Recognizing these challenges, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015 to 2030 focuses on women and work as a major centerpiece of their efforts over the next 15 years. The United Nations reports that globally, women represent only 25.6% of members of Parliaments, 36.3% in local government, and 28.2% in managerial positions. Although progress has been made since the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action organized a global group to work together to improve the status of women overall and promote their increased participation in the economy, much effort still needs to be made.

The pandemic has exacerbated many of these challenges as it emphasized women’s needs and preferences that must be addressed in the post-pandemic work world. This Special Issue on “Changing Realities for Women and Work: The Impact of COVID-19 and Prospects for the Post-Pandemic Work World” presents research and theoretical discussions regarding the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on women’s work and work–life balance and what is emerging as the post-pandemic future of work. The articles discuss how women in various professions and employment have adapted to the pandemic and what has been the impact of the pandemic on their care burden. Continuing issues facing women in the workforce are also discussed, including the “glass ceiling” preventing women, especially women of color, from rising to senior leadership positions; the “broken rung” of promotions favoring men over women; the continuing challenge of unpaid care work; the continued discrimination against women of color; the inability of women in many countries to access certain professions; women’s universal call for more flexibility in the workplace; and other key issues that still need to be addressed so that women can experience equality at work. It is anticipated that this Special Issue will stimulate further discussion regarding the changing nature of work for women, conditions experienced at the workplace, and attitudes toward work–life balance. 

The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the work life of individuals throughout the world and had a particularly troubling impact on women and their work. According to the McKinsey and Company Leadin.org “Women in the Workplace” 2020 report, the pandemic has disrupted the corporate workplace in ways never seen before and threatened to erase the gains in work that women have enjoyed over the last six years. The report found that in addition to fearing furlough or layoff, women have suffered burnout from the disruption of their work–life balance and the stress caused by the additional responsibilities of balancing work, childcare, and child education. Women of color have been disproportionately impacted by the negative impacts of the pandemic, the report asserts. During 2020, women also continued to experience the “broken rung” of promotions, experiencing far fewer advancements than men. Power (2020) argued that the pandemic has greatly increased the care burden of women and families, exacerbating the unpaid care work issue that has plagued women and work. Women in the corporate world continue to request more sustainable and flexible work situations, a request magnified by the stress of managing work and the “second” and “third” shifts during the pandemic. Data show that “allyship” between white women and women of color helps to address the stress caused by the pandemic as well as discrimination and barriers women of color face in the workplace. Allyship has also been shown to be key to supporting women of color and their communities when facing the dire consequences of broader social discrimination, such as the murder of George Floyd or the increased violence against Asians.

The purpose of this Special Issue on “Changing Realities for Women and Work: The Impact of the Coronavirus and Prospects for the Post-Pandemic Work World” will be to present research and theoretical discussions regarding the impact of the pandemic on all aspects of women and work and to look ahead to a post-pandemic work world and changes that still need to be made. This issue builds on the wide-ranging research into women and work,

Potential topics, among others, include:

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work life of women on the front lines, in education, health, government, the non-profit sector, agriculture, or other sectors;
  • How work–life balance has changed dramatically during the pandemic. Has it changed differently for women in different professions and jobs?
  • Will changes in work and work–life balance caused by the pandemic persist in the future?
  • What is the impact of the “third shift” on women’s work and wellbeing?
  • The emotional impact of the pandemic on women and their work;
  • How instability of employment caused by the pandemic has impacted the gains women have achieved in the workforce;
  • What women are demanding for the future of their work. What has the pandemic taught women regarding what they value and need in their work situations?
  • How salary differentials between men and women are lingering and will continue after the pandemic;
  • What have been the work challenges faced by women of color during the pandemic and how do these compare with the challenges faced by white women?
  • How has “allyship” between white women and women of color been practiced during the pandemic and what has been its impact?
  • How has violence against African Americans and Asians impacted women from these communities in the workplace?
  • How has stress impacted women in different jobs and professions during the pandemic, and what changes need to take place to address this stress now and in the post-pandemic workplace?
  • What would be the impact of state-financed childcare on the care burden of women?
  • What would be the impact of state-financed and required preschool on the care burden of women?
  • What impact has the pandemic had on the work of women in other countries (select one or more countries for comparison)?
  • What do global surveys show how the work status of women has changed as the result of the pandemic?
  • Will work return to “normal” after the pandemic or are the changes part of a new definition of work and work-life balance?
  • What are the challenges that remain for women and work?
  • What actions should women take to improve their status in the workplace?

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Dr. Randal Joy Thompson
Dr. Chrys Egan
Dr. Tina Wu
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • women and work
  • coronavirus
  • work-life balance
  • gender equality

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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6 pages, 208 KiB  
Editorial
Changing Realities for Women and Work: The Impact of COVID-19 and Prospects for the Post-Pandemic Workplace
by Randal Joy Thompson
Merits 2022, 2(3), 164-169; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits2030012 - 1 Aug 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3506
Abstract
COVID-19 plunged the globe into a multi-year pandemic that still continues to this day, meting out devastating repercussions on the international economy and the wellbeing of people everywhere [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

21 pages, 951 KiB  
Article
Women’s Leadership and COVID-19 Pandemic: Navigating Crises through the Application of Connective Leadership
by Chris T. Cartwright, Maura Harrington, Sarah Smith Orr and Tessa Sutton
Merits 2023, 3(3), 583-603; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits3030035 - 7 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1429
Abstract
International and national crises often highlight behavioral patterns in the labor market that illustrate women’s courage and adaptability in challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting changes in the workplace due to social distancing, remote work, and tele-communications protocols showcased women’s power of [...] Read more.
International and national crises often highlight behavioral patterns in the labor market that illustrate women’s courage and adaptability in challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting changes in the workplace due to social distancing, remote work, and tele-communications protocols showcased women’s power of authenticity and accessibility (interpersonal and personalized experiences) to engage with their constituents effectively. The catalyzed this research was our desire to underscore the importance of studying the impact of COVID-19 on women leaders. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light specific challenges and disparities women faced in the workplace. It has been asserted that women leaders substantially benefit businesses and organizations and we wanted to test this out through the practices of our research participants. Decades of research reveal that women leaders enhance productivity, foster collaboration, inspire dedication, and promote fairness in the workplace. This article introduces the feminist Connective Leadership Model (CL) an integrative leadership model and one informed by early feminist theory for understanding women’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. A mixed-method study of select US women leaders before and during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the CL model and its efficacy for adaptive, inclusive leadership in various contexts. First, this article highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s leadership and behavioral response to the crisis through the lens of the CL model. Second, this article delves into challenges the women leaders faced, including adaptive challenges, isolation, team management, increased caregiving responsibilities, and gender-related disparities. Third, this article reframes women’s voices articulated through a crisis management leadership framework coupled with an understanding and application of the behaviors defined through complexity theory which are aligned with the CL model. Finally, the article discusses the four ‘As’ of crisis leadership: authenticity, alignment, awareness, and adaptability. The application of the CL model provides an effective framework for determining the most appropriate leadership behaviors within the complex challenges of a crisis; it enables the leader to focus on personal, employee, and organizational well-being. Full article
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10 pages, 265 KiB  
Article
Engaging “Care” Behaviors in Support of Employee and Organizational Wellbeing through Complexity Leadership Theory
by Merike Kolga
Merits 2023, 3(2), 405-414; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits3020023 - 1 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1406
Abstract
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the attributes of nurturing, empathy, and relating rather than directing moved into the spotlight as important skills for leadership. These skills are representative of the concept of “care” that is often associated with women’s or feminine leadership. The importance [...] Read more.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the attributes of nurturing, empathy, and relating rather than directing moved into the spotlight as important skills for leadership. These skills are representative of the concept of “care” that is often associated with women’s or feminine leadership. The importance of care as a component of leadership had not received significant attention in the leadership literature until the pandemic brought the need for care onto center stage. This article argues that care will continue to be an important attribute of leadership and an essential attribute of an androgynous leadership style—that includes behaviors typically classified as male and those behaviors typically classed as female—that is needed to navigate the increasing complexity of the world most effectively. The article further argues that complexity leadership theory provides the most appropriate leadership approach through which complex adaptive organizations can initiate and foster the development of “care” behaviors as part of an androgynous approach to leadership which produces system-wide benefits in complex systems more capable of addressing the global challenges of the climate crisis and increased environmental disasters, future pandemics, local wars, terrorist attacks, and other phenomena. Full article
20 pages, 1252 KiB  
Article
What If Moms Quiet Quit? The Role of Maternity Leave Policy in Working Mothers’ Quiet Quitting Behaviors
by Tingting Zhang and Chloe Rodrigue
Merits 2023, 3(1), 186-205; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits3010012 - 6 Mar 2023
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 4786
Abstract
This study aims to examine the effects of various maternity leave support on the quiet quitting behaviors and mental health conditions of working mothers across industries during the post-pandemic period. Through an empirical survey method of 310 valid responses from a panel data, [...] Read more.
This study aims to examine the effects of various maternity leave support on the quiet quitting behaviors and mental health conditions of working mothers across industries during the post-pandemic period. Through an empirical survey method of 310 valid responses from a panel data, the study results indicated that working mothers who took maternity leave were less likely to adopt quiet quitting behaviors when they returned to work after childbirth and showed better mental health at work compared to their peers who did not take maternity leave because of childbirth and/or childcare. Additionally, paid maternity leave was not found to have a significant effect on quiet quitting behaviors and mental health of working mothers across industries, but the duration of maternity leave was found as a significant factor in impacting working mothers’ quiet quitting behaviors and their mental health conditions. Moreover, peer workers’ quiet quitting behaviors and supervisors’ support for childcare (e.g., flexible work schedule) were found significantly to improve working mothers’ quiet quitting tendencies at work. Lastly, there exist significant differences in age and race in the working mothers’ quiet quitting behaviors at work. Full article
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19 pages, 305 KiB  
Article
The Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Work: Career Advancement Challenges
by Sara McPhee Lafkas, Marin Christensen and Susan R. Madsen
Merits 2023, 3(1), 167-185; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits3010011 - 22 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3934
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic upended countless lives all over the world. Considerable research has shown that women’s career progression has been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men’s, especially in the wake of school closures and increased childcare responsibilities. In order to understand [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended countless lives all over the world. Considerable research has shown that women’s career progression has been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men’s, especially in the wake of school closures and increased childcare responsibilities. In order to understand more deeply the impact of the pandemic on women’s careers, a large mixed-method survey was conducted in Utah, a western state in the United States. This article reports on the responses of 2564 respondents to one of three open-ended questions taken from the overall survey, namely: “How has the pandemic impacted your career advancement experiences and opportunities over the short term and longer term?” The article frames the findings of this question by outlining workplace conditions and structures that contributed to women not advancing prior to the pandemic and applies the lenses of identity theory and systems psychodynamic theory to illustrate tendencies for workers and organizations to maintain the gendered dynamics that impede women’s career advancement. Findings included 59.1 percent of respondents who described a negative effect on their career advancement caused by the pandemic. Overarching themes and sub-themes were identified from these negative effects. Overarching themes included: (1) “Everything is on hold”; (2) “Lost or relinquished opportunity”; (3) “Reevaluation of Career”; and (4) “Experiences by Characteristics.” The latter theme highlighted unique experiences women faced versus men and manifested the gendered dynamics identified by identity and psychodynamic theories. Findings highlighted the importance of making workplace changes such as more flexible work and/or hybrid work arrangements, improved leave policies, the provision of childcare and other support services, and government policies that eliminate gendered barriers to women’s career advancement. Full article
18 pages, 1165 KiB  
Article
Key Factors That Contribute to the Development of Resilience in Successful Women Leaders Who Experience Disrespect and the Importance of Respect in the Post-Pandemic Workplace
by Carrie Spell-Hansson
Merits 2023, 3(1), 133-150; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits3010009 - 1 Feb 2023
Viewed by 3530
Abstract
Extrinsic structural inequities, such as historical biases against women in certain professions, their delegation to lower-paying jobs, gender, racial, and other discrimination, and additional systemic factors have been extensively studied as barriers to women entering and advancing in leadership positions in the workplace. [...] Read more.
Extrinsic structural inequities, such as historical biases against women in certain professions, their delegation to lower-paying jobs, gender, racial, and other discrimination, and additional systemic factors have been extensively studied as barriers to women entering and advancing in leadership positions in the workplace. Yet, the intrinsic individual characteristics of successful women leaders, including self-awareness, self-respect, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-acceptance, and resilience, that have facilitated their success in obtaining and retaining leadership positions despite these barriers have received far less attention in the literature. Resilience, in particular, is an important intrinsic characteristic that facilitates women’s ability to navigate the often-difficult terrain of organizations, including facing disrespect by supervisors and colleagues. This study investigated the critical factors that contributed to the development of resilience among 24 successful women leaders in the United States which allowed them to be effective when experiencing disrespect in the workplace. Participants identified four categories of disrespect commonly experienced in the workplace, including: (1) not being listened to; (2) not being respected; (3) not being acknowledged; and (4) condescension. Factors that helped them develop the resilience to succeed despite these experiences included early developmental influences, circumstances they successfully overcame in life, and experiences in their youth that shaped how they responded as adults to disrespect or a lack of respect from their supervisors and colleagues. Participants also highlighted the importance of respect, the flip side of disrespect, in motivating them and enhancing their engagement in their work. The reported study is significant in that it identified factors that can be inculcated in women to help them develop resilience, and it highlighted the critical importance of creating a post-pandemic workplace that fosters mutual respect and does not tolerate disrespect. Full article
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19 pages, 280 KiB  
Article
The Impact of COVID-19 on Working Women with Caring Responsibilities: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis
by Randal Joy Thompson
Merits 2023, 3(1), 96-114; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits3010006 - 9 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2021
Abstract
Working women forced to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown often faced additional unpaid care responsibilities, requiring a “second or even a third shift”, such as educating their children in addition to caring for them while working. The purpose of this study was [...] Read more.
Working women forced to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown often faced additional unpaid care responsibilities, requiring a “second or even a third shift”, such as educating their children in addition to caring for them while working. The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of a sample of working women with care responsibilities in order to derive recommendations for post-COVID working structures and arrangements. The study explored the unique experiences of four women from the United States, Latin America, and Africa, across a range of personal and organizational contexts. The study employed Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to understand and interpret the lived experiences and meaning-making of these women during the pandemic lockdown. The IPA was supplemented by the visual data gathering techniques of “a special object” and “the River of Experience” to give voice to participants’ more metaphoric thinking. The study concluded that participants’ experiences reflected the superordinate themes of: (1) a deep sense of loss of “the normal”; (2) psychological reboot and seeing the world with new eyes; (3) emerging women’s community and connection; and (4) redefining the world of work for women. Each superordinate theme was supported by several subthemes. Recognizing that the 9-to-5 work world has been remodeled to a certain extent, the participants recommended more flexible work arrangements and more support for human needs by employers and society as essential elements of the postpandemic workplace. Full article
12 pages, 273 KiB  
Article
Gender Disparity in the Wake of the Pandemic: Examining the Increased Mental Health Risks of Substance Use Disorder and Interpersonal Violence for Women
by Karen Perham-Lippman
Merits 2022, 2(4), 445-456; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits2040031 - 2 Dec 2022
Viewed by 2801
Abstract
The global COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted women compared to men in the workplace, creating gender disparity associated with mental health. In occupational fields where women comprise nearly three quarters of the workforce, outcomes of increased depression and psychological distress have resulted, creating [...] Read more.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted women compared to men in the workplace, creating gender disparity associated with mental health. In occupational fields where women comprise nearly three quarters of the workforce, outcomes of increased depression and psychological distress have resulted, creating even greater gender disparity in terms of mental health risks. These include an exponential increase in substance use associated with mental health issues for which continued stigma and negative perceptions of mental health conditions and substance use have prevented the pursuit of treatment. Further, the increased occurrence of interpersonal violence experienced by women during COVID-19 also presents considerable comorbidity with mental health issues. Research also shows a significant relationship for women between severe intimate partner violence and substance use. It is imperative that gender disparity associated with mental health risks be addressed within the current crisis and that we better prepare for the future to ensure inclusive and accessible resources within workplaces and improved behavioral health outcomes. Full article
11 pages, 246 KiB  
Article
The Impact of COVID-19: The Phenomenological Effect of Burnout on Women in the Nonprofit Sector and Implications for the Post-Pandemic Work World
by Patricia A. Clary and Patricia Vezina Rose
Merits 2022, 2(4), 331-341; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits2040023 - 20 Oct 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2580
Abstract
Research shows that 67% of the nonprofit sector workforce in the United States are women and worldwide, women account for the majority of employees in the nonprofit sector. Identified as service provider professionals, these women provide the care and nurture of countless people [...] Read more.
Research shows that 67% of the nonprofit sector workforce in the United States are women and worldwide, women account for the majority of employees in the nonprofit sector. Identified as service provider professionals, these women provide the care and nurture of countless people and yet often neglect themselves as they serve others out of passion or a strong work ethic. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, service provider professionals responded to an increased demand for programs and services with fewer resources. The increase in the demand for programs and services with a decrease in resources contributed to stress for these workers, leading to the phenomenon of burnout. To address the phenomenon of burnout, we propose that nonprofit organizations need to be systems thinking organizations and consider implications at the organization’s micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Three themes emerged from this study, self-care at the micro level, psychological safety at the mezzo level, and reviewed and revised policies and procedures that address the unique needs of women at the macro level. The article considers the nonprofit sector, burnout, and women in the nonprofit sector and its implications for organizations at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Full article
23 pages, 811 KiB  
Article
Working from Home and the Division of Childcare and Housework among Dual-Earner Parents during the Pandemic in the UK
by Heejung Chung, Hyojin Seo, Holly Birkett and Sarah Forbes
Merits 2022, 2(4), 270-292; https://doi.org/10.3390/merits2040019 - 12 Oct 2022
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 4465
Abstract
This paper examines whether the expansion of working from home led to a more equal division of domestic work during the pandemic. We use unique data of dual-earner heterosexual couples gathered during the first lockdown in the UK when workers were required to [...] Read more.
This paper examines whether the expansion of working from home led to a more equal division of domestic work during the pandemic. We use unique data of dual-earner heterosexual couples gathered during the first lockdown in the UK when workers were required to work from home by law. Results reveal that mothers were likely to be carrying out a larger share of domestic work both before and during the lockdown. When fathers worked from home, compared to those going into work, a more equitable division was found for cleaning and routine childcare. Furthermore, homeworking fathers were up to 3.5 times more likely to report that they increased the time they spent on childcare during the lockdown compared to before. However, we also found evidence of homeworking mothers having increased their time spent on domestic work, and doing a larger share of routine childcare, compared to mothers going into work. Overall, the study shows that when working from home is normalised through law and practice, it may better enable men to engage more in domestic work, which can in turn better support women’s labour market participation. However, without significant changes to our work cultures and gender norms, homeworking still has the potential to enable or maintain a traditional division of labour, further exacerbating gender inequality patterns both at home and in the labour market. Full article
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