Survey: Women want training, development and mentorship — and few say it is being provided

On International Women’s Day, alarming survey on how female employees feel about their employers

It is estimated that 5.4 million women left the workforce in 2020. Some left because their jobs were lost because of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, but many left due to the strain caused by the pandemic. Either way, the numbers were far greater than those for men.

And they’re not getting better.

This past January, the jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 275,000 women left the workforce — compared with only 71,000 men.

Here are the numbers that may be more disturbing — and should be more alarming to business leaders across the state: The women who remain in the workforce are making it clear that they are not getting the support and resources they feel they need to survive and thrive.

A recent study by Morning Consult, sponsored by Verizon, shows the disconnect.

  • 73% of working women view employer-sponsored resources (such as training and development programs) as important for supporting employees who are balancing personal and work obligations amid the pandemic, yet only 39% say their employer currently offers this.
  • 64% of working women surveyed view mentorship programs for employees to connect with one another as important, yet only 21% say their employer offers this.

This survey was not conducted last year, during the grips of the pandemic — but last month, Feb. 22-23, among 2,001 U.S. female adults, excluding retirees and full-time students. It also included an oversample of 100 female small and medium-sized business executives, for a combined total of 233 female SMB executives.

What can be done?

Verizon introduced some of its initiatives last week, including the Verizon Women’s CoLab — which it is calling a collaborative career engine for women everywhere that will offer access to trailblazing leaders, best-in-class development resources and an array of tools to remain in the workplace and thrive. The CoLab will launch later this year.

The Basking Ridge-based company also said it will launch #WomenOwnWednesday, a social media campaign that encourages society to support women-owned businesses every Wednesday — starting this weekend.

Three of the company’s top female executives — Tami Erwin (CEO, Verizon Business), Christy Pambianchi (chief human resource officer, Verizon) and Rima Qureshi (chief strategy officer, Verizon) — are calling for Verizon’s partners to join this effort.

“As we honor International Women’s Day, we must take a stand and declare that women’s careers are not expendable in times of crisis — and it starts by creating a future of work that works for all women,” they said in a letter to Verizon employees.

And then there are organizations such as Dress for Success Northern New Jersey — which is going on more than two decades of helping women in the workforce, especially those in underserved communities.

It is holding its second annual Women’s Leadership Summit, entitled “Rise and Thrive,” this Friday. (Register here.)

“The pandemic has highlighted the challenges of women from a broad array of socioeconomic backgrounds facing sudden job loss, domestic violence, caregiving responsibilities and more,” Executive Director Kim Iozzi said.

Still, more needs to be done.

And more New Jersey businesses and organizations need to lead the way. If they don’t, they will be left behind.

The survey also revealed the thoughts of women about returning to the workforce.

Four out of five women who plan to reenter the workforce in the future are largely concerned about the state of the economy limiting their opportunities — and nearly three in four are concerned about difficulty finding a job that matches their existing skill set.

Then there’s this:

Nearly 2 in 3 women (62%) who aren’t currently working but plan to reenter the workforce in the future say they’ll be looking for a job in a field that offers more opportunity for skill development and advancement.

Companies that offer these opportunities quickly will stand out from the rest.