Now that we are 13 months into the pandemic, you’ve likely seen articles in newspapers and on television noting the difficulties that working women have faced.

While the effects of COVID-19 have changed work for every American worker, the negative impact on women is compounding challenges that they were experiencing before the pandemic. The alarm bells started ringing last spring, with experts quickly working to offer ideas and solutions to support working women, especially working mothers.

Before March of 2020, the McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace 2020 report shows that women made up 47 percent of entry-level employees, but only 28 percent of senior leadership roles — which was an 18 percent increase from 2015. Women of Color only represented 5 percent of that total.

This 2020 report shows that the current health crisis is inflicting another on our economy, the mass exodus of women from the workforce and leadership roles, especially working mothers. In McKinsey’s report, nearly 20 percent of working women have considered a reduction in hours or taking a less-demanding position. Employment data shows that more than two million women have left their jobs. While those women may feel this a necessary hitting of the pause button, it may have longer-term effects on their careers and companies.

The financial consequences of the specific loss of female leadership on individual companies and our economy will be significant. McKinsey states, “Research shows that when women are well represented at the top, companies are 50 percent more likely to outperform their peers.” McKinsey data shows that the loss of women from the workforce on a global scale could cause a loss of $1 trillion in GDP in 2030.

Several other studies show that female leadership is even more critical for companies as they continue to navigate the ongoing crisis. In a recent Zenger Folkman study published in the Harvard Business Review, women were rated as more effective leaders before the pandemic, and their ratings increased during the first wave.

What makes women better leaders as the crisis continues? Zenger and Folkman found, “they (direct reports) want leaders who can pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough,” and women more often display those traits.

Focusing on proactive solutions, companies are implementing changes to support women leaders and foster their career growth. Experts have found the key to countering the effects of the crisis are for managers to adjust expectations of performance, watch for burnout, respect work-life boundaries, implement inclusivity efforts to promote gender equality and support professional development. Investing time and resources into women leaders’ career growth and development will better position companies for future success.

Anchorlight Creative, a Michigan-based creative agency exclusively serving women-owned businesses, recently partnered with Traverse Connect to develop new women-focused professional development opportunities. Because women’s leadership roles in our area are just as diverse as the businesses that operate here, for that reason, workshops and programs will serve small business owners, senior leaders, and those at any stage in their careers.

Sabrina Morrice, founder and CEO of Anchorlight Creative offered further insight into the development of the Women in Business Series. “The WIB series is for women and facilitated by women. In the workplace and the boardroom, women face a unique set of challenges. These programs are tailored to overcoming those barriers through in-depth exercises, self-reflection, live sessions with other women — all with a focus on implementing what we learn together.”

Morrice wants participants to know, “In short, we want you to feel understood, supported, and ultimately emboldened with all the implementation steps you need to make real and positive change in your professional development.”

In the coming months, we will see improvements in the immediate health crisis thanks to expanding vaccination efforts. We all can start to imagine a future that more closely resembles the early months of 2020. By supporting and fostering the growth of women leaders now, we’ll get there even faster.

Brenda McLellan is the director of investor engagement at Traverse Connect.

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