Managing the Gender Gap: How Marketers Can Cater to the Changing Needs of Women During COVID-19

Chrissy Harris

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Written by Chrissy Harris, PhD | Research Manager

While the pandemic has caused considerable challenges for all of us, working women in particular are feeling its impact. Dubbed “America’s First Female Recession,” COVID-19 has widened the gender gap considerably. Women are spending 40% more time watching their kids than men, and have had to reduce their working hours four to five times more. This has exacerbated the gender gap in work hours by an estimated 20 to 50%.

Women have also lost their jobs at considerably higher rates than men, and their unemployment rates have skyrocketed to the double digits for the first time in over 70 years. For women of color, the ramifications are even worse — the unemployment rate in June for white men was just 9%, compared to 14% for Black women and 15.3% for Latinas. While so much about the pandemic remains unknown, the potential long-term effects of the gender gap paint a troubling picture. Women forced to cut their work hours, or who’ve been eliminated from the job force entirely, are likely to lose out considerably on career advancement opportunities. The result is a huge loss of earning potential from an individual perspective and fewer women primed for key leadership positions from an organizational perspective.

With diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at the forefront of our minds, it’s more important than ever that marketers/brands recognize and acknowledge how severely the pandemic is affecting women — and use that information to better tailor their messaging, products and services to an audience whose needs are rapidly evolving. Here are five ways marketers can address this changing demographic:

Shift your messaging from “on the go” to “here right now.” The pandemic has forced most of us to abandon long-term planning and embrace uncertainty, and this is no exception for women who have reduced their work hours or left the workforce altogether. We’ve abandoned our “go, go, go” mentality, because frankly, there’s nowhere to go — and our messaging needs to change to a more empathetic and understanding tone that acknowledges this shift to the here and now, instead of one racing toward the future.

Consider creative tools of utility to ease the burden. Moms who have transitioned from being a primary breadwinner to the primary caregiver will need help adjusting to this new normal, and marketers should offer creative tools that provide utility for the entire family. Consider age-appropriate apps for kids that offer entertainment and engagement for longer periods to ease the childcare burden. Reimagine self-care as a necessity — not a luxury — and as a vital action women can take to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Prioritize sponsoring/promoting women-led organizations. Now is the time for brands to show their support in tangible ways. Focus on partnering, promoting and/or sponsoring women-led organizations (particularly those led by women of color) as well as non-profits that prioritize doing good for women, such as a foundation that provides free therapy for women who have lost their jobs.

Support ongoing education opportunities for women. Provide resources for women to continue to learn and participate in relevant conversations. Consider setting up private social networks/chat rooms for women to stay connected with others who are in a similar situation and/or with women who are still working and can provide mentorship opportunities. Encouraging women to be part of an intellectual network will help with future job opportunities and with their immediate mental health needs.

Look inward to identify opportunities to help employees. As a brand, it’s important to focus on more than just the external. Look inward and figure out ways to improve your work environment for employees who are struggling. Connect with the women at your company to understand the challenges they are facing at home. Ask how they can feel better supported by their managers and the organization at large — and be open to incorporating their feedback. For those still working from home, take advantage of this unique work dynamic and consider letting working parents (especially working moms) set their own work hours to ease some of the pressure to be constantly “on” during a strict 9 to 5 schedule.

As the pandemic continues, it’s important for marketers/brands to reconsider how they can best represent, engage and ultimately help women whose work and personal lives have so drastically changed.