This article was originally published in The Bulletin Box on 15 April 2021 by the author.
We have seen and continue to see how the ongoing pandemic has set back the progress women had achieved over the past decades. While vaccinations around the world have resulted in some countries easing restrictions and the economy easing, it will take time for people especially women to get back on their feet. In the US alone, the participation rate among working women aged 25 to 54 dropped by 74.2% in September 2020. In a similar research by Affect, it was found that working mothers, in particular, have seen declines in income, career growth, and a negative impact on their job performance.
The “Covid-19 & the Workforce” study by Affect, showed that 68% of men are working full time during the pandemic, while only 49% of women do. “More than one in five working moms (21%) took a temporary leave of absence from a job to handle increased caregiving or household responsibilities.” The impact is not limited to the United States. Globally, the pandemic has shown that it is not gender-neutral.
According to the UN Women and UNDP, this year “around 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 a day — including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19.” The paper goes further in stating that the effect is not limited to finances. “Violence against women reports have increased around the world, as widespread stay-at-home orders force women to shelter in place with their abusers, often with tragic consequences.”
A Supportive Network
In difficult times, people tend to isolate themselves. However, it is in these trying times that people, especially women, need to strengthen their social ties. There is nothing worse than feeling trapped and powerless.
While some people take comfort in following in the footsteps of people who are larger than life — Mother Theresa, Michelle Obama, Jacinda Arden, or Angela Merkel – that might not be enough for others. There is nothing wrong with relying on the memoirs and sage wisdom from cultural heroes or saints. They can be helpful. However, we can also learn from the experiences of those who are closer to us – our family members.
Outside of the family, there are other networks and relationships we can cultivate. Having a strong support network is particularly important. Below are some of the benefits of having a good support system according to the Mayo Clinic.
Finding a Support System
Finding a network where a person can thrive is a process. Online forums abound for those who value anonymity. Volunteering is another way. There are various organizations in Singapore that need manpower. She Loves Data is one such organization. It is a global not-for-profit community headquartered in Singapore with the aim to inspire women to pursue careers in Data & Tech and encourage them to be bold in their pursuit of a new career.
Depending on the organization and what is required, people can also up-skill themselves by learning while doing volunteer work. I have been part of at least two volunteer organizations since I landed in Singapore. Through these organizations, I was able to hone my marketing skills, primarily because I was able to test out trends, tools, and theories quickly.
Be clear and realistic about what can be achieved. Once a network is found, be an active participant. Networking and volunteering require give and take. I have been fortunate enough to meet so many fantastic men and women who have been and continue to be generous with their time and knowledge. In return, I pay it forward by helping others who are also seeking the same two-way relationship.
Landing a job may not be the immediate result of networking or volunteering, but these help in managing stress or improving mental well-being. Through volunteering, I managed to meet a lovely lady who has since become a dear friend, mentor, and coach. She has helped me deal with stressful situations and has provided me clarity when my judgment gets clouded.
Find a tribe. It can be daunting at first, but it will be worth it.