For the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the entire world. This Public Health crisis has infected millions of people. Even though many businesses and societies are starting to reopen, this virus isn’t going anywhere.
On top of all of this, an economic crisis has been created as well and this pandemic has had a devastating impact on both local and global economies. Countless corporations have laid off hundreds of thousands of people, causing unemployment rates to spike, leaving many individuals and families wondering how they are going to make ends meet. When this is combined with the devastating impact the pandemic has had on small businesses, it is clear that everyone has to stick together and provide assistance to those who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, which includes women.
Are Women Returning To Traditional Gender Roles?
During the past few years, there has been an increased amount of attention paid to the massive income gap between men and women. Even though there has been some progress made, the pandemic is threatening to reverse all of this.
Families face a constant challenge, trying to juggle both work and children. This is a challenge that is hard enough without a global pandemic. When the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, many people were forced to confine themselves in their homes. Therefore, couples have been forced to decide how they are going to divide up the new labor between caring for children, helping them with their school, and trying to work remotely. When faced with this decision, it is often women to resign themselves to returning to the traditional caregiver role, stepping back from their careers.
Of course, this is often justified by the fact that men continue to make more money than women even for the same job, as evidenced by the wealth gap above. Therefore, early evidence is showing that women are being impacted by the pandemic more than men. As a result, it is important to find ways to empower startups and companies that are led by women during this critical time.
Increasing a woman’s economic empowerment means more than securing a well-paid job. Studies show that when a woman starts her own company, she creates new jobs and opportunities for her local community that decreases the economic and gender gaps. Female founders also have flexible time and the ability to meet the needs of both family and work when running their own companies.
All that being said, what are some of the strategies that everyone should implement to support female startups at such a critical time in history?
1. Focus on Providing Women with What They Need To Be Successful
First, it is important to provide opportunities for women when it comes to education and training. In order for them to lead successful companies, they need to be given the tools and mentors to take them there.
For example, many of the top business schools in the world have already started accepting more women into their classes. Startup organizations are hosting Female Founder events and hosting month-long educational events to support women – and men – in a female founder’s journey. And there is more awareness to the gender gaps most female founders experience in the startup space, providing resources to overcome these barriers to funding access.
At the same time, this type of action is not enough. It is also important to provide women with the scholarship opportunities, internships, and training programs that men have access to. The reality is that most people who are in positions of power tend to hire people who look like them. As a result, many women are often passed over in favor of their male counterparts. By providing women equal access to training opportunities, they will have a greater chance of leading successful companies in the future.
2. Shift Policies to Favor Women, Not Men
Another reason why women are often passed over when it comes to leadership opportunities is that many people are still concerned they are going to have to take time off to raise children. If Government policies were more accommodating with respect to this issue, this would not be a problem.
It is important to create gender-responsive, gender-neutral government policies. Just as there has been a movement to create more paternity leave options for men, it is also important to find ways that disincentivize companies from discriminating against women just because they might have children. Time and time again, women have proven that they are able to balance work and kids. But they shouldn’t have to be rewarded for juggling it all.
In fact, policies and support should be provided that level the playing field for both fathers and mothers.
3. Trust Women to Make The Decisions
Finally, in order to truly empower female founders when it comes to their startups, it is important to place them in a position to make decisions. I’ve heard from more than one female founder that they’ve been told they should bring a man on board if they want to secure a successful funding round. This long-held bias diminishes both the woman and the company she created.
In order to encourage more women to start their own companies, it is important for them to see that other women have already been successful. This starts by placing them in positions of power. The reality is that women continue to be underrepresented when it comes to decision-making positions. By encouraging multiple perspectives in times of crisis, companies are going to be more successful.
Women-Led Startups Can Succeed
These are just a few of the top ways that our society can support startups that are being led by women right now. Is obvious that more has to be done to support women who are trying to break down barriers, bust through the glass ceiling, and prove that, once again, women can be every bit as successful as men. Of course, this is only going to happen if women receive support from those around them. Therefore, right now, particularly during the pandemic, it is important to implement these strategies to ensure that women who are leading startups feel supported in their business endeavors.