What Women Want in an Employer in the New Normal

Talent Acquisition

The pandemic profoundly changed women’s relationship to work. In fact, nearly 3 million women have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic, and their participation is the lowest it has been in more than three decades, according to Indeed.

Getting women back into the workforce is a priority for many employers. HR leaders who fail to recognize what women need will have a hard time moving forward, according to a recent Indeed survey of 609 women from across the United States.

Key Findings about Women at Work

None of the findings in this survey are surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. While 29% of respondents had reduced their hours during the pandemic, most women who “downshifted” plan to return to full-time work but most prefer remote positions, according to the report.

READ: Women Leaders in HR

What HR Leaders Need to Know

Employers should recognize the role they have played in women leaving the workforce. Even before the pandemic, women were still carrying most of the burdens on the home front. Burnout was already increasing. Then, the pandemic hit and made the problem much worse. In fact, 79% of the women who reduced hours or stopped working said the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.


With concerns over their mental health and a burnout epidemic, women are seeking a little comfort and support from their employers. Empathetic leadership is a big catchphrase in the industry now. But it’s more than mere talk. People are looking for sensitive leaders, who have high emotional intelligence. Some of this kind of leadership requires a sense of humanity.

READ: How Empathy Makes for Effective Leadership

For example, 70% of the women who cut their hours or quit said they experienced a lack of support from employers while they were trying to balance work and home life during the pandemic. It behooves HR leaders to provide empathy themselves but also to train managers on how to appropriately deal with these kinds of personal issues that can spill into the workplace.

Many managers have little to no experience with this new focus on sensitivity and wellbeing in the professional realm. For some, being empathetic comes naturally, and others will need more guidance. This should be a priority for anyone serious about getting women back to work. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 42% said empathy from leadership will be a crucial factor when considering a full-time employer
  • 40% want empathy from managers, too
  • 60% plan to look for employers willing to accommodate their needs

Better Communication

This focus on the individual’s wellbeing also requires better communication and more transparency. That’s how leaders build trust with their teams. In fact, 80% of the respondents who left their jobs or worked less said that managers could have simply asked how they could help.

Asking someone how they feel or what you can do to ease their burdens is an easy fix. Sometimes, people just have to be reminded. Also, in this new normal HR leaders will have to ensure that everyone is receiving these kinds of check-ins from the leadership at the top to the most junior staff.

READ: Driving Employee Engagement to Increase Collaboration Across the Organization


The pandemic revealed that people have a lot going on their lives. For the first time, employers saw a bigger picture of individual employees and realized they had much on their plates.

Indeed, 55% said it would help if employers offered more flexibility with their schedules, so they could better manage their home and work responsibilities. The majority of women who had left the workforce full-time said they preferred working remotely. To be precise, 74% of women working full-time said that remote work helps them do their jobs better.

WATCH: A Look at the Future of Work

More women will return to work as the world accepts COVID-19 as a manageable reality. However, employees have leverage now. And employers who want to win the war for talent and draw women back to work should address their needs, provide empathy and better communication, be flexible, and consider remote work options.

Photo by Kampus Production for Pexels

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