In the months leading up to Shoptalk Meetup for Women, the Shoptalk team is producing an Original Content series on The State of Women Working in Retail that explores four phases of women’s leadership in retail: Where We Are, How We Got Here, How We’re Making Waves (available 3/25) and Where We’re Headed (available 4/15).
Our first piece on Where We Are examined the overall landscape for women working in retail. In this piece, we’ll hear directly from our community about the impact of COVID-19 on their careers.
The Diverging Impact of COVID-19 on Women Working in Retail
Just as COVID-19 has divided the retail industry into haves and have nots, the pandemic’s impact on women working in retail has been similarly polarizing. Our survey of 330+ women in the Shoptalk community shows the pandemic has had both positive and negative effects on women working in retail, challenging the conventional narrative that COVID-19 has had a profoundly negative impact on all women in the workplace.
While one-fourth said the pandemic has negatively impacted their careers, slightly over one-third said it’s had a positive impact. Another 40% said COVID-19 has had no impact on their careers.
The impact of COVID-19 on women’s careers was relatively consistent across seniority and organization types. Women with children or other dependents did not report a dramatically different career impact than those without kids, though they did identify distinct challenges related to caregiving. These challenges often predated the pandemic but have been exacerbated by it.
Soft Positives vs. Hard Negatives
A deeper dive into the survey’s findings reveals that the drivers of positive and negative impacts tended to be very different. The women who reported a negative toll cited severe, quantitative impacts such as having their compensation cut, their workload significantly increased or losing their jobs, while those reporting a positive impact most often provided more attitudinal responses such as being challenged in new ways.
Job Moves During the Pandemic: Staying Put, New Challenges and Bold Moves
Pandemic-induced economic uncertainty, an overall contraction in the workforce and a desire for job security appear to have slowed down the rate of job moves in the Shoptalk community. We analyzed the careers of the 560 women leaders who previously spoke at Shoptalk or Groceryshop and discovered a significant reduction in the number who accepted new roles in 2020 versus previous years.
Some Silver Linings?
Despite the unique professional challenges women face due to COVID-19, there are reasons for optimism. Two-thirds of Shoptalk’s survey respondents said they are doing more to address the challenges they or their female colleagues face in the workplace because of the pandemic--including 36% who said they’ve made themselves a resource for other women in the workplace. That number jumps to 47% for women VP-level and higher.
This could have a profoundly positive impact on the industry, as an overwhelming 84% of women across all seniority levels said mentors or champions have been either “important” or “very important” to their careers.
These opportunities and challenges are why we believe so passionately in Shoptalk Meetup for Women, a place where women can come together to do business, share ideas and champion others.