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What Women Want Most from Their Employers at This Stage of the Pandemic

How must-haves have changed amid the ongoing global health crisis

Woman putting her mask on
Photo courtesy of Anna Shvets

This article is part of InHerSight's Working During Coronavirus series. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, find helpful advice here on working remotely, job hunting remotely, dealing with anxiety and stress, and staying safe at work if you have to be on-site.

The pandemic has changed the way we hire employees, the way we communicate with our teams, the way we manage, and the way we do, or sometimes don’t, think about our futures, and for women specifically, it’s changed what matters most at work. 

In 2019, when InHerSight published our data on the things women want most from their employers, bread-and-butter benefits such as Salary Satisfaction, Paid Time Off, and the People You Work With topped the list, in that order—as they usually did. (If we look back at data from, say, 2016, PTO, pay, and great coworkers often graced women’s top must-haves.)

But those benefits hadn’t encountered their greatest challenge yet: mass remote work; unprecedented child care and household responsibilities; widespread burnout from stress, anxiety, and overwork; layoffs; and 1.8 million women dropping out of the workforce to try to manage it all. In short, a pandemic. 2020, and now 2021, drastically altered what women want and need from their employers, and we see that reflected in InHerSight data:

These are the top three factors that InHerSight users identify as being most important in the workplace as of September 2021. 

  1. Flexible Work Hours: Ability to set your schedule as long as you get your work done
  2. Salary Satisfaction: Salary, merit increases, cost of living adjustments, overall comp
  3. Ability to Telecommute: Flexibility to work remotely

As you can see, women’s new must-haves at work reflect a very different reality than those before the pandemic—a reality much more focused on the integration of work and life and fulfilling the most baseline aspects of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, such as shelter and rest. 

Notably, as many women have moved to remote roles in the past 18 months, and connections with coworkers have dwindled, that metric has fallen off the top three completely and been replaced by remote work itself, or what we call “Ability to Telecommute.” PTO, too, is no longer a priority. Interestingly, however, 40 percent of our audience still consider Women in Leadership to be a must-have. Apparently the assurance of upward mobility and representation remains intact regardless of world crises. 

You’ll also see here that Salary Satisfaction, although still a top must-have, has dropped to second place. That change is important, too. “Salary Satisfaction, while still in the top three of women’s must-haves at work, saw a big dip from a percentage point perspective, from 82 to 71 percent, because we have greater needs than money, like safety,” says Ursula Mead, cofounder and CEO of InHerSight. 

Not represented in the top three is the rise of another important metric, Sense of Belonging, which InHerSight introduced in the wake of summer 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests to better represent the experiences of all women and people of marginalized backgrounds. Since adding that must-have more than a year ago, it’s climbed fast, landing for now in seventh place out of our 17 metrics. 

“It’s unsurprising to us that women want to feel like they belong at work,” Mead says. “That’s human nature. But what we know from continued surveying around this topic is that more than half of women don’t feel they can bring their whole selves to work, and about the same number don’t feel heard at work. Those emotions impact identity and sense of self, not to mention retention. Employers should take them seriously.”

InHerSight considers these insights into women’s current must-haves essential to the recruitment and retention of women during this time and to our long-term mission of improving the workplace for women. The top must-haves are based on InHerSight's user reviews of more than 150K companies in the United States. Data is accurate as of October 2021.

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