There’s no denying that 2020 has taken an emotional toll on women. When I think about the mothers, the front line workers, the single women living alone in a lockdown, or the caretakers, …it will stop me in my tracks. The burden has felt impossible at times. And it’s showing up in the numbers: Mckinsey & Lean In reported that more than 4 times the amount of women have left the workforce this year, compared to men and 75% of them cite burnout as the reason. Many, many women have clearly not had the support they deserve and need to keep going.
As someone who has worked in women’s leadership for the last decade, the implications of this reality is hard to grasp. We worked so hard to get here, and yet the pandemic has, in my opinion, exposed one of our greatest weaknesses in this country: our support of our women (or lack thereof). It’s put us all in a position– especially caretakers – to create individual solutions for structural problems…which doesn’t work. But intentional employers are filling the void as best they can. Ones who see their employees as more than employees – as humans – and have made the choice at every turn to open up hard conversations, provide resources, and see these challenges for what they are: really, really, really, challenging.
It can make it hard to keep on, keeping on. Luckily, I had the opportunity to lead a conversation with one of those employers, T-Mobile, who provided a space for their 17,000 women to come and listen to four brilliant leaders – Nelly Pitocco, Nathasa Smith, Shwetha Kamala, and Debby Roseman – who are also mothers and caretakers, about what they’re each doing in their own lives to prevent having to tap out of the workforce altogether. It was honest. It was vulnerable. And it was true.
Here’s a few lessons I left holding close to my heart about how to keep going:
I’ve often said this year that many of the decisions we made about how to orient our lives no longer apply. But it can be hard to see that when you’re living it. I feel like 2020 has been the year of adapting. From how to work, to how to go to the grocery store, to how to learn and everything in between. “We can adapt ourselves. There were adjustments made. I have to teach my daughter to brush her teeth herself for the day without me monitoring. I mean, small things like that, but it gave me back those precious minutes to do other stuff,” Shwetha Kamala, one of the speakers, told me. Those small choices we make to adapt can make all the difference in our ability to show up again tomorrow, even after the worst and most overwhelming of days.
HAVE SOME (self) COMPASSION.
We themed WOMAN ON’s first season, “We’re doing our best” because it’s the truth. We are all doing our best. No matter how much we feel like we’re failing, falling behind, getting off track, or completely lost…we’re doing our best. This has been a personal mantra of mine these last few months and something I remind almost every woman I meet. Nelly Pitocco shared a similar sentiment with all of us which had heads nodding everywhere. “…I think we’re all going through a huge amount of stress and we’re all trying to do the best that we can. And sometimes the best that we can is good enough.” Awomen. Good enough indeed. So, remember that next time you’re being hard on yourself because this year is hard enough.
DON’T GO AT IT ALONE
I could write an entire book on how important our support systems are during trying times, and during times we want to give up. We’re not meant to do any of this alone, even if it feels awfully lonesome without our usual support structures intact due to social distancing. Natasa reminded us all just how important our community is, especially the one we build at work. “Just being able to have my peers to really count on and again, to go through those moments together, and know that they can count on me has probably been the biggest thing to allow me to kind of find some type of normal state in the past couple of months,” she said. Like we did in this conversation, open up with your colleagues about what’s really going on where you can. It’ll make you feel less alone.
You’re not the only one feeling what you’re feeling. Yet, we often don’t realize that until we choose to share what it is that we’re going through. Sometimes, you have to share your problems in order to gain the solution. Other women have stood where you’re standing. Debby shared her perspective on why this is so important to staying strong. “The idea that we can be candid about what we’re going through in a way that we don’t have to worry about somebody thinking less of us because we’re vulnerable in a moment. That gives me a lot of hope,” she shared. It gives me hope, too.
No matter how tired, overwhelmed, or on the brink you are right now, this too shall pass. Hopefully, these lessons will give you hope during times you feel like quitting, leaning out or shifting down.