February 11, 2021, CCXXXIV

No. CCXXIV; February 11, 2021



With vaccines to protect against COVID-19 now becoming available throughout many parts of the world, employees are wondering what the workplace will look like in the emerging reset economy. Will the “she-cession” in which more women than men have lost jobs subside, and how will we address the underlying issues forcing women to curtail careers in order to care for their families at home? A group of executives from IBM, Colgate, Nestle, and L’Oreal recently came together for a Global Summit of Women Virtual Roundtable to discuss these complex workplace and societal issues emerging from this global health crisis.

One major work trend that appears to have lasting impact is remote work, a benefit that many women have always sought.  However, says Carla Grant-Pickens, Vice President and Chief Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer for IBM, workplace flexibility has come with challenges and consequences.  That desire for remote work never had in mind combining childcare with schools closed as well as housework, and work from one’s job.  Consequently, one million mothers in the US have opted out of the workforce.  For those who opted to stay, remote work has led to feelings of isolation for many people who thrive in environments where they can interact with others. “Also, people felt it was hard to get visibility, particularly women and people with diverse backgrounds,” she said.  

On the other hand, Margaret Johnston-Clarke, Vice President and Chief Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer for L’Oreal Group, said that remote work fostered great creativity. “Overnight, we had to rethink how to recruit, how to onboard and how we organize ourselves day by day,” she said.  Video meetings also generated a massive increase in the number of people who were able to participate in online diversity and inclusion training from every corner of the world since no travel was needed.  In the future, she anticipates a mix of both in-person training for many employees while maintaining online learning for others.

An aspect of remote work which surprised many people, particularly in Mexico and Latin America, was that productivity was not diminished, according to Nora Villafuerte Garza, Vice President of Human Resources for Nestle Mexico.  She said that looking ahead, balance is important to maintain the closeness of the team and productivity.  However, remote work throughout 2020 eliminated the fear many top executives had about employees working from home.

Another positive impact of remote work was pointed out by Eugene Kelly, Vice President and Chief Global Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Colgate-Palmolive in the company’s expanded ability to utilize talent and how they procure talent from different countries.  “At the same time,” he said, “I worry about the soft negative impacts of not having the face-to-face time since some things related to diversity and inclusion need to be face-to-face.”

To hear more from this panel on what companies are doing to address employees’ physical and mental health issues, the consequences of an increased use of technology, and what the call for racial justice sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement means in terms of the diversity and inclusion portfolio, click video below.


A truism which women already knew but was recognized by business and government leaders for the first time during the pandemic is that care work has economic value.  Very simply, if workers are unable to do work for their job because of family responsibilities, then it’s a company’s or a country’s loss in terms of productivity.  

Recently, the UK Office of National Statistics calculated that 40 hours of unpaid childcare and housework comes to 570 Pounds, or US$779, weekly. In the US, unpaid housework was estimated to be worth $1.2 trillion in 2019. Globally, 16.4 billion hours are spent on unpaid care work every day – the equivalent of 2 billion people working 8 hours per day without pay, which amounts to 9% of global GDP. These calculations make visible the previously unseen value of many women’s contributions to society and the economy.

Given the increased demands of unpaid domestic work during the pandemic, UN Women has been tracking what some countries have adopted as solutions in response to this care crisis, but there is hope among families that these initiatives become permanent.

Some approaches include Argentina increasing monthly child allowance payments, while Australia and Costa Rica have ensured that childcare services remain open during lockdown.  Austria, Cyprus and Italy have granted additional family leave to working parents, and Canada, Spain, and Korea have introduced cash benefits for parents affected by school and day care closures.  Other measures include Costa Rica, Germany, and Italy introducing initiatives such as paid reductions in work time and work-sharing arrangements while expanding access to paid parental and sick leave.

As women leave the workforce in large numbers as a result of the increased workloads, more action is needed from governments to stem the economic fallout of lost jobs and livelihoods pushing millions of additional people into poverty. (Source: New York Times, “The Economist Placing Value on Black Women’s Overlooked Work,” Feb. 5, 2021; and UN Women, “Whose Time to Care?”, Dec. 2020)


January 21, 2021 marked the 10th Anniversary of the passing of the Cope-Zimmermann Law in France which set the course for publicly-listed companies in France to reach a quota of 40% women directors by 2017.  Not only was this goal achieved before the deadline, the percentage of French women directors continues to increase, reaching 46% not only among the largest companies in France’s Blue-Chip Index, the CAC40, but also in the index of 120 top companies, the SBF120. By all accounts, the Cope-Zimmermann Law has been a success in France and a model for other countries to follow.  

In marking the 10th Anniversary of the law’s passage, France’s Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities Elisabeth Moreno stated, “This law is a concrete illustration that laws can be useful, that the binding standard ultimately shifts the lines. Who today would dare to go back?”

Given how a quota law resulted in the spectacular leap within Boards of Directors from 6.4% female directors in 2011 to 46% today, Minister Moreno has pleaded for a similar quota in the Management Board of companies to further ensure a pipeline for women in France’s corporate leadership.  (Source: www.egalite-femmes-hommes.gouv.fr, “Discours d’Elisabeth Moreno – Dix ans de la loi Cope-Zimmermann – Assemblee nationale,” Jan 21, 2021)


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