Sparked in part by high fuel and food prices, the rising cost of living is a global problem that’s expected to hit the women in your workplace the hardest, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Gender Gap Report.
Cost of living increases impact women more severely than men because women continue to be paid less and have unequal access to wealth-building resources, the Switzerland-based think tank said.
Although the report stated North America is the “most advanced” region in closing gender gaps in salaries and economic opportunity, education, health and political empowerment, the U.S. ranks 27th out of 146 countries for gender equity. (Iceland is No. 1.)
And if a finding by Pew Research Group is accurate that American women only earn 84% of what their male counterparts make, it’s no wonder women are more vulnerable to cost of living hikes.
Another factor stems from the closures of schools and childcare facilities at the height of the pandemic. The forum reported that during that time period, the proportion of time spent performing “unpaid work,” such as caring for children and other family members, vs. total work was 19% for men and 55% for women.
The stress from balancing work with care responsibilities caused millions of women to leave the workforce and not come back.
In an online statement, World Economic Forum’s managing director, Saadia Zahidi, specifically blamed COVID labor market losses and insufficient “care infrastructure” complicated by rising childcare costs for women being disproportionately affected by today’s high cost of living.
“In face of a weak recovery, government and business must make two sets of efforts: targeted policies to support women’s return to the workforce and women’s talent development in the industries of the future,” she said.
Easing cost of living stress
To be more supportive of current and future female employees who may be having a tough time making ends meet because of the high cost of living, some strategies you can try include:
- Conducting a pay equity analysis. An audit can reveal if you have a compensation gender gap. After analyzing the data, address any pay disparities and communicate to employees what you’re doing about them. Salary transparency can go a long way in facilitating workplace gender equity.
- Starting a mentorship program. If the women of your organization feel like there are realistic opportunities to advance, they’re more likely to stick around. HR may be able to offer strategic guidance about specific mentor-mentee pairings so both parties gain value from the experience.
- Implementing a more comprehensive paid leave policy. Yes, the FMLA helps working women – but that leave is unpaid. A company family and medical leave policy that allows employees to take paid time off and return to work without repercussions can improve employee retention.