In 2020, close to two million women exited the workforce, driven out by pandemic fueled pressures. Since then, women have begun to return to the workforce, with their numbers reaching pre-pandemic levels in March 2023, when over 77.8 million women were recorded as working in the United States.
Women are Returning to the Workplace
Several factors are responsible for the resurgence of women workers. Now that schools have weathered the initial years of the pandemic, there are more reliable schooling options. Similarly, there are fewer business and industry closures, giving women more options for places to apply, and more overall freedom. In general, the public health outlook has improved as well, reducing stress and pandemic restrictions.
The influx of women workers comes at a good time, as several women-dominated fields are growing. For example, the need for kindergarten and preschool teachers is continuing to expand, and women make up 96.8% of the workforce in this industry. Growing industries like speech language pathologists and licensed vocational nurses also rely heavily on women.
Ageism is a Real Issue: in our Minds and in Reality
For many women, these changes and growing industries are enough to get them back into the workforce. However, other barriers exist, preventing some women from taking the leap. Ageism is a common barrier; in fact, 61% of US workers 45 years of age or older report seeing or experiencing ageism. Ageism has real impacts, making it more likely for female workers to be fired or let go by employers. Women also tend to face ageism bias five years earlier than men.
Another key barrier is caregiving responsibilities. This barrier disproportionately impacts women, with women being five to eight times more likely to have their careers impacted by caregiving than men. Studies have shown that 32% of women report needing to be home to care for children and loved ones, and 12% of women say the cost of caregiving has prevented them from seeking work. Additionally, there will be 74,000 fewer childcare workers in 2023 than in 2020, making reliable options sparse.
How to Overcome a Lack of Confidence in Returning to the Office
People’s lack of confidence is another challenge. In fact, 25% of women say it is the largest barrier to returning to work. On a more general scale, 50% of women don’t feel confident about their work. This includes women who are working part-time as well as women who are still actively searching for work but are not currently employed at this time.
There are two main factors that go into a person’s lack of confidence. The first factor to consider is when people take a break in their careers. Of the 45% of women who believed that taking a career break had harmed their career, 42% report that they are earning less now, 37% are less optimistic about their long-term earning potential, and 29% feel ignored and undervalued by their employers.
Career breaks can have internal and external impacts on women, whether they are blows to self-esteem or dips in salary. It is difficult to keep a positive attitude when faced with the uphill battle of trying to stay ahead of one’s costs and keeping an efficient budget when one’s earning potential is on the line.
The other factor that contributes to a lack of confidence is lookism. What is lookism, you may wonder? Lookism is the pressure to adhere to societal beauty standards in order to have a successful career. There are intense external pressures on women in society today, and many of these are taken to the point that they are not easily attainable.
Having to not only perform their job duties but also look a certain way has a very real impact on the mental health of the individual. To quantify this, for example, 44% of women experience negative feelings when not wearing makeup.
Overcoming Professional Issues Through the Use of Mentorship and Hybrid Roles
Whether we are talking about career breaks or lookism, these barriers can be daunting. That being said, all is not lost, and there are potential solutions to these issues. One common solution is seeking professional mentorship, which is not sought after nearly enough.
Professional mentorship can greatly increase self-esteem, give you a greater likelihood of getting promoted at your job, and give you the confidence to face difficult work challenges. Mentorship is also able to reduce instances of imposter syndrome, the feeling that you get when you think that you are not good enough but actually are excelling. These factors can truly make women feel like they deserve to be back in the workforce.
A second solution is pursuing hybrid roles. 21% of women report that a lack of such roles has prevented them from seeking work in the past, as hybrid roles can be good transitions into the work world. Hybrid roles have other benefits as well; 67% of women report that hybrid work positively impacts their career growth, and 66% say that they experience less bias in hybrid work.
Exploring Cosmetic Surgery Options to Enhance Your Look
Finally, cosmetic surgery can be a viable solution for many women. Plastic surgery helps women regain confidence in their physical appearances. In turn, this can then grow into confidence in their careers. A surprising 25% of women are considering cosmetic procedures. While it may have been more of a luxury in the past and not as commonplace, cosmetic surgery has become mainstream and useful to many women when it comes to coming back to the office. Studies suggest that procedures like liposuctions and tummy tucks may have contributed to 993,000 more mothers entering the workforce in December 2022 compared to December 2021.
Bringing it all Together
While returning to the workforce can be challenging, there are several ways to make the transition easier, whether they be mentorship, hybrid roles, or plastic surgery. Each woman faces different barriers and deals with said barriers in her own way, but the most important aspect is rekindling self-confidence in the workforce.