This promoted content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic. A paid-for membership product for partners of The Drum to self-publish their news, opinions and insights on thedrum.com - Find out more
Celebrating working women in 2020 & beyond
July 12, 2021
As Women's History Month winds down, I wanted to take a moment to pause and reflect on the struggles and triumphs women have faced in the last 12 months. As a mother, wife, sister, friend, and female executive, I have found myself at so many times throughout the past year with a series of mixed emotions. I am keenly aware of the great fortune I have had to remain employed during a massive economic downturn. However, like so many other women, working through this extraordinary set of circumstances required me to quickly figure out how to navigate a different way to live, a different type of workplace, and a family dynamic with everyone home at all times. Each day still, I must juggle my personal and professional responsibilities while maintaining resiliency, composure, and a sense-of-humor. Admittedly, some days are better than others.
According to a recent U.S. Labor report, more than 2.5 million women left the workforce during the pandemic, compared to 1.8 million men. The "Women in the Workplace" report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company (September 2020) indicates 1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers. As I read these reports, I am saddened to think of the lost opportunities resulting from these shifts. I realized more than ever, I am grateful to have the privilege of working for Publicis Health, an organization comprised of nearly 65% women and one with a culture uniquely built to support its female employees.
While, like any organization, we have room to grow, I truly believe we are one of the best places to work; as I reflect on the last year, three lessons stand-out.
Flexibility Is the Rule, Not the Exception
As COVID-19 upended all of our lives, flexibility and balance quickly became business imperatives. Losing our talent, especially in the thriving and competitive health sector, could not be an option! Agency leadership was a given clear direction—find ways to be flexible and ensure our employees are feeling supported. Recognizing the uniqueness of everyone's situation, we adopted a practice of "mass personalization" where we empowered managers to identify the different solutions needed for different individuals. We also asked and encouraged our employees to speak up and tell us what they needed to make their workdays bearable and manageable.
Frequent Communication Is Essential
Amid the simultaneous pandemics of coronavirus and racism, and without the opportunity to gather in offices to address concerns, frequent communication in various forms became essential. We organized Town Halls and Brave Space meetings to facilitate radical candor opportunities. Employees could openly speak about all the complex and challenging circumstances occurring outside our windows. We also provided reminders highlighting the resources and benefits available to staff through Bright Horizons, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Headspace through weekly newsletters.
Update Existing Offerings for Challenging Times
At Publicis Groupe, we have a long and proud history with business resource groups (BRGs) which are employee-led groups build on shared characteristics or life experiences. During the pandemic, our BRG for parents, Publicis Parents, created "Publicis School." The program allowed staff to sign up their children for instructor-led Zoom courses where their kids could learn to cook, play guitar, learn a new language, and more. These programs were age-specific and gave children something to do while parents focused on work.
Additionally, we increased our Health & Wellness stipend and expanded the definition of wellness. We adapted the benefit to be more inclusive of colleagues' needs in challenging times. For example, I used my stipend to offset the cost of an after-care program for my son. Others purchased camping equipment to spend time with their families or used it to outfit their newly needed home office. Finally, we switched from a limited PTO policy to a flexible one, allowing employees to take the time off they need when they need it.
The Proof is in the Data
I am pleased to say, when we look at the data from 2020, we did not see a spike in the loss of our female talent. Turnover amongst our female employees in 2020 was lower than that of our male colleagues. I'm proud to say while our business grew, so did our female workforce. We not only stayed the course by continuing to focus on attracting diverse female talent, but we successfully increased our retention.
Now, as we begin year two, I'm focused on celebrating those silver linings and maintaining our momentum. While last year was filled with hardship, tragedy, and struggle, it was also a year of triumph and hope. Over the past 12 months, we inaugurated Kamala Harris as the first female Vice President of the United States, Sarah Thomas was the first female referee at a Super Bowl, Kim Janey became the first Black and first female mayor of Boston, and Janet Yellen became the first woman to head the Treasury Department since its founding in 1789.
While COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women, the current crisis is not intractable. If we can acknowledge the problem, empathize by providing flexible solutions, and offer more than temporary relief, we have the opportunity to rebuild a more just and equitable world.
Follow Pam Berman, our chief talent officer, on LinkedIn.