May 25, 2021

Deloitte: Pandemic takes heavy toll on working women

Kate Birch
4 min
Decreased wellbeing and non-inclusive workplace culture is why majority of women are significantly less optimistic about their careers post-pandemic

A combination of heightened workloads, household responsibilities and non-inclusive working environments during the pandemic is driving deep dissatisfaction among many women in the workforce, according to a new Deloitte Global report, Women @ Work: A global outlook.

The report, which surveyed 5,000 women across 10 countries, finds that the increased responsibilities are having devastating effects on working women as 51% of those surveyed are less optimistic about their career prospects today, as well as reporting a 35-point drop in mental health and a 29-point drop in motivation at work compared to pre-pandemic.

“The last year has been a ‘perfect storm’ for many women facing increased workloads and greater responsibilities at home, a blurring of the boundaries between the two, and continued experiences of non-inclusive behaviors at work,” says Emma Codd, Deloitte Global Inclusion Leader.

Wellbeing decreasing

Since the pandemic began, 77% of women surveyed say their workloads have increased, as have home responsibilities with 59% spending more time on domestic tasks, 35% more time child-caring, and 24% more time caring for other dependents.

As a result, the survey suggests that women’s wellbeing has fallen significantly since the pandemic with only one third of women considering their mental wellbeing today to be ‘good’ or ‘extremely good,’ compared to 68% previously.

And subsequently, there’s a concern for many women about the impact of their mental health on their career with nearly a third attributing poor mental health as a factor in why their career isn’t progressing as fast as they would.

Non-inclusive behaviors in the workplace

A further factor in why women are feeling less optimistic about work is that many continue to experience non-inclusive working environments, with over half saying they’ve experienced some form of harassment or non-inclusive behaviour at work in the past year, from unwanted physical contact and disparaging remarks to having their judgment questioned and being given fewer advancement opportunities due to gender bias.

And most women don’t report such incidences to their employer, particularly the non-inclusive behaviors which they feel are less ‘serious’, with a quarter citing fear of career reprisal as the top factor, and only 31% believing their company currently has a process for reporting discrimination and harassment.

Creating a more gender-equal environment

There are positives though with a number of employers acknowledging the difficulties for women right now and really doubling down on building inclusive cultures and supporting women’s careers.

Dubbed by Deloitte as ‘Gender equality leaders’ and representing the employers of roughly 4% of respondents, they have created more inclusive and trusting cultures where women feel they are better supported.

And the benefits of being a gender equality leader are clear with nearly three-quarters of women working for such organisations rating their productivity (70%) and job satisfaction (72%) as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ compared to less than a third of women. Who work for organisations with a less inclusive, low-trust culture. But that’s not all. When it comes to staying with the company, 70% of women in inclusive organisations are planning to stay, compared to a staggering 8% in non-inclusive.

According to Codd, the women who work for these organizations are “more engaged, productive, and satisfied with their careers”.

She adds: “As we start to rebuild workplaces for the future, we have a golden opportunity to get gender equality and inclusion right and avoid setting back years of progress.”

There are various actions organizations can take now to address this critical issue:

  • Prioritizing work/life balance and flexible working options that extend beyond workplace policies and are entrenched in the company culture
  • Empowering women to succeed in life outside of work to enable success at work
  • Offering fulfilling development opportunities that build skills and expertise.

Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer. “As organizations look to rebuild their workplaces, those that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in their policies and culture and provide tangible support for the women in their workforces will be more resilient against future disruptions. Additionally, they will lay the groundwork needed to propel women and gender equity forward in the workplace.”


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Jun 6, 2021

Business Chief Legend: Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

Kate Birch
4 min
As the first and only female CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi smashed corporate America’s glass ceiling and transformed the performance and purpose of PepsiCo

At a recent Asia Pacific-focused event, organised by P&G and UN Women, the former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, shared why enabling a diverse and inclusive workforce can directly impact the bottom line.

“If 80% of our products are bought by women because they were the gatekeepers at home, or make all the purchases, why don’t we have a large number of women represented in our ranks,” she told a virtual global crowd of thousands. 

Such business advice may seem rather obvious today, but in 2006, when Nooyi put this business philosophy into practice at PepsiCo, it was both pioneering and progressive. Because not only did the performance of PepsiCo transform under Nooyi’s 12-year tenure as CEO, but so did its purpose and people, with Nooyi widely praised for transforming the firm’s diversity and inclusion agenda.

And who better to do so than someone who had herself smashed the corporate American glass ceiling. Because, when Nooyi became CEO in 2006, following 12 years as Chief Strategist, not only was she among just a handful of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 firms, and one of very few foreign-born executives, she was both the first female CEO to lead PepsiCo, and the first person of colour. Not to mention also being a wife and mother.

Proving performance and purpose can co-exist

And she more than got the job done, growing PepsiCo revenues by 80%, making the firm more global than it had ever been, so that by the time she stepped down in 2018, nearly 20% of net revenues came from MENA, Asia and Latin America, and expanding the business significantly with key acquisitions (Tropicana) and mergers (Quaker Oats).

But it was Nooyi’s strategic redirection of PepsiCo, transforming both its purpose and people, that really made an impact. As chief architect of PepsiCo’s pledge, Performance with Purpose, unveiled in 2006 and a precursor to the modern sustainability movement, Nooyi repositioned the firm to focus on what is best for the world and for its people, from sustainability and social responsibility to diversity and diet.

She transformed the firm’s D&I agenda, created a culture where workers were encouraged to stay with the company, moved corporate spending away from junk food and into healthier alternatives, redesigned packaging to reduce waste, and switched to renewable energy sources and recycling.

As she told Forbes in 2017, “I wanted to make sure that PepsiCo was not only delivering top-tier financial returns but doing so in a way that was responsive to the needs of the world around us.”

Indra Nooyi talking with US President Biden (then Vice President) in 2014

Smashing corporate America's glass ceiling

And it was this ability to realise a world in which business is both practiced and recognised as a force for good that has earned Nooyi a place in CEO history books and landed her numerous accolades, including 11 honorary degrees, the Hero of Conscious Capitalism award at 2017’s CEO Summit, consistent inclusion in the world’s 100 most powerful women (including #1 by Forbes in 2009/10) and most recently, induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Not bad for a girl from Chennai, India, who was expected to lead a conventional life as a wife and mother, but by her own admission was a bit of a “rebel”, with a passion for playing cricket and lead guitarist in a band. In the late 70s, she relocated to the US, earning herself a Master’s in management from Yale, and beginning a four decade-long strategy-focused career that was born at BCG in 1980 where she spent six years and ended in 2018 following 24 impactful years at PepsiCo.

And while she has now retired from corporate life, Nooyi continues to wield the influence that so positively changed the direction of one of the world’s largest companies. As well as serving on the board for ecommerce giant Amazon, she speaks at summits close to her heart, and has recently penned her memoir, advising corporates on better integrating work and family.

And while she has now retired from corporate life, Nooyi continues to wield the influence that so positively changed the direction of one of the world’s largest companies. As well as serving on the board for ecommerce giant Amazon, she speaks at summits close to her heart, and has recently penned her memoir, advising corporates on better integrating work and family. 

Indra Nooyi's memoir will be available from September 28, 2021, and can be pre-ordered. 

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