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CREW: Pandemic Dealt a Major Setback to Workplace Parity for Women

Although it’s generally acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through the workforce in 2020, less widely recognized is the disproportionate impact on women. Globally, women lost more jobs than men in 2020, according to a newly issued CREW Network research paper, and while the male workforce has returned to pre-pandemic levels, worldwide there are 13 million fewer women working today compared to 2019. 

“One in four women have considered stepping out or stepping back from the workplace,” according to the CREW research paper. “Women lost $800 billion USD in income in 2020, more than the combined GDP of 98 countries. The wait for parity on a global scale has lengthened by 135.6 years.” 

Within the commercial real estate industry, results from CREW’s July survey of 1,018 CRE professionals across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. tell a similar story. Twelve percent of survey respondents lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, with 78% of those leaving involuntarily. 

These losses were more likely to affect women of color. The survey found that 27% of the respondents who lost their jobs identified as Black and 16% as Latinx, compared to 9% who identified as White and 7% as Asian. 

CREW’s paper notes that among women generally, Latinx currently have the highest unemployment rate at 9.1%, followed by Blacks at 8.4%. The paper quotes U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo as telling Fortune, “It’s deeply unfair that so many women of color work full time, in poverty, by doing some of the most important jobs in America. And if you want a truly strong economy, which includes everybody, then you need more investments in job training for women; more tech and digital education available for women; and more childcare, homecare and elder care.” 

Thirty-eight percent of CREW survey respondents believe the pandemic stalled progress for women, while 32% believe it derailed progress for women/set them back. Sixteen percent believe the pandemic had little or no impact on women, and 14% believe it leveled the playing field. 

The pandemic and resulting shutdown did make an impact on workplace policies and not only on employment, CREW’s July survey found. Seventy percent of companies created new employee work policies as a result of the pandemic. Sixty-eight percent of employees surveyed favor flexible work arrangements, and 50% believe their companies will continue to offer increased flexibility post-pandemic. Seventeen percent of respondents said they’ll actively seek to work for a company with such arrangements in place.  

A change in mindset was by no means limited to employers, according to the CREW paper. “While half of the CRE professionals surveyed said that their career priorities changed as a result of the pandemic, nine out of 10 women said their personal priorities changed. Hundreds of survey comments cited the immediate need for better work/life balance, a stronger focus on self-care and mental health, and more flexible work arrangements.” 

The paper also provides an action guide for industry and company leaders to support and advance women as recovery from the pandemic continues. Similarly, CREW says, the guide “equips women with strategies to navigate and overcome career challenges—and continue forward progress in advancing their careers.” 

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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