New York Women in Communications has launched #WomenHeard, a research-driven initiative meant to address the alarming rate of women departing from the workforce in the last year.
According to a recent study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center, 80% of all workers over the age of 20 who left the workforce in January of 2021 were women.
Women of color have also been disproportionately impacted by job loss. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Data, the jobless rate for Black women aged 20 and over is 25% higher than the national average of all American women in that same age group. For Hispanic and Latina women, the rate is almost 50% higher.
NYWICI president Ashley Miles and the leadership team at the 90-year-old organization were spurred into action by these “alarming numbers.”
“It really woke us up to the issues,” Miles said, adding that they wanted to dig into what these numbers meant for the communications industry. “As the leading organization for our industry, especially as it relates to women, we absolutely felt called to take action.”
To support the #WomenHeard platform, NYWICI is conducting a national research study to survey both the communications industry and women across the country.
Tapping into its nationwide network of women at all stages of their career, NYWICI hopes to discover what women in the industry are up against during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they’re coping.
The study will explore how these challenges can be addressed to ensure the strides that have been made over the past decade aren’t reversed and that the disparity for women of color is also actively addressed.
NYWICI will present the research findings, tools and guidance through its annual programming including Student Bootcamp, The WICI Awards and The Matrix Awards throughout 2021.
The organization hopes the research will jump start rebuilding efforts, said Dustee Jenkins, VP global communications, Spotify, and NYWICI president-elect.
“We know the communications industry tends to over-index on women, and that it’s usually the hardest hit anytime a company is making reductions,” Jenkins said. “So we don’t want to wait for the data to go ahead and start the important work.”
Another step in addressing the problem is asking CEOs, CPOs and CHROs across the communications industry to look at their own organizations and analyze how they can better support retention and re-engagement of women in their workforce. For the call to action, companies will add their name to the #WomenHeard hashtag as their vow to do better.
Through research and candid conversations with male and female executives across the industry, NYWICI aims to develop guidance and tools for leaders to build a diverse, inclusive workforce of women.
“Not only are we trying to understand what has caused women to leave so we can bring them back, but we’re looking at early indicators,” said Vita Harris, chief programming officer at NYWICI. “For the women still in the industry, how do we safeguard and support the women before they find they need to exit the industry?”
Post-pandemic when the workforce is slowly built up again, NYWICI wants to see the industry “bringing back better,” and being inclusive of women of color and other marginalized groups.
“We want to make certain that as we bring women back, we’re not creating greater disparity than we had before,” said Harris. “As we accelerate into this future, we want to be able to start addressing the needs of women, whether they be needs that stem from COVID or other needs that still haven’t been met.”