The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken a toll on many aspects of society, and the job market is no exception. Women in particular have been disproportionately affected by pandemic-related job losses.
Why? Ongoing caregiving responsibilities, uncertainty around school re-openings, and unreliable access to affordable childcare have made a COVID recovery especially difficult. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 3.7 million men are currently out of work, compared to 4.5 million women. Additionally, as many as 165,000 women have left the workforce altogether as a direct result of the pandemic.
Julia Brncic, senior vice president, chief counsel, and corporate secretary at Cigna, recently participated in a panel at Workplace Strategies Agenda to discuss how employers can create a more resilient workforce by empowering and supporting working women and caregivers.
Resources to Support Caregivers
Taking care of a loved one can be challenging. Explore these resources, compiled by Cigna, available to help caregivers.
Physical and Mental Well-Being is a Top Priority
“As a healthcare company, we’re focused on providing affordable, predictable, and simple health care for everyone,” said Brncic. “What we saw throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is that there are additional obligations and expectations put on women as caregivers.”
New research recently released by Cigna confirms these challenges, finding that working parents recognize the importance of self-care and mental health but often struggle to prioritize it, citing lack of capacity and resources. Working moms also reported that they are likely less to feel that they have resources and support to address mental well-being.
Brncic shared how Cigna is addressing these burdens on working moms: “At Cigna, we’ve implemented a number of programs throughout the last year and a half that include additional time off for primary caregivers, and we’ve also really invested in the health and well-being of our workforce. We believe a big part of what is going to help keep women in the workforce is the investments made in their wellbeing, including providing additional resources for mental health.”
Flexibility is Key
When it comes to supporting working parents, flexibility is key. “Flexibility is crucial to retaining women and caregivers in general in the workforce,” said Brncic. “This can be as simple as not requiring people to turn their cameras on, and importantly, helping people prioritize what needs to be done, which can be difficult when working remotely. As leaders, it is really incumbent on us to help our employees understand key priorities, and support them in any way necessary.”
A Healthy Workforce is Good for Business
Promoting a healthy workforce is not only the right thing to do, it is a critical business imperative for our company. “A primary topic that I think displaced all other topics from prior years in engagement with shareholders is what are you doing to care for your employees? What are you doing to care for your workforce?” shared Brncic. “The view that the workforce is one of your most important assets is one that Cigna has held for a long time, but it’s these types of engagements that demonstrate the growing interest and importance in open disclosure around how companies are investing in their workforce.”
Central to our mission of improving the health, well-being, and peace of mind of those we serve is a global, healthy, and diverse workforce. As Brncic shared, investors are paying more attention to companies who are demonstrating their commitment to their workforce, and as our research has demonstrated, a healthy workforce is business critical.
A Healthy Workforce is an Employer Imperative
New Cigna research finds employers are the key to linking employee health and productivity, business success, and overall economic vitality.
Moving forward, it is crucial that employers empower and support working women. This is never more true than today, as the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored for many employers the direct link between a healthy workforce and the health of their business. We challenge other organizations to take a comprehensive look at their health and well-being benefit offerings to ensure the health and vitality of their workforce – and the continued progress of women and caregivers in the workforce.