Covid-19 has dominated the nation’s agenda since the virus began to wreak havoc on the economy. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 28% of respondents reported experiencing some loss of income, 29% work for employers who have cut jobs, and a staggering 42% of employers that have reduced employee hours. And while unemployment claims recently fell for the first time since the pandemic took hold in March, the number of claims for unemployment benefits remains double that of the 2008 recession.
Social and economic inequalities make women particularly vulnerable this time. According to an analysis by McKinsey & Company, prior to COVID-19, women accounted for roughly 46% of the workforce, which, in a more equitable environment, would suggest they would make up about 43% of current job losses. However, the report found that women instead accounted for 54% of the overall job losses. Most of these losses reflect a disproportionate number of women in industries most impacted by Covid-19, such as accommodation, food service, and education.
Women who have been impacted by the economic downturn can achieve greater future career mobility by earning an MBA. Here’s how an MBA can help:
Flexibility. With an increasing number of online options, women now have the flexibility to learn wherever they are. Most programs also maintain online access to campus resources, instructor office hours, and virtual networking events. For women in 2020 who maintain the lion’s share of household responsibilities, the option for an online MBA with other top candidates from their field provides an opportunity to participate in the virtual space while still being able to attend to household obligations (or discuss options for more equitable division of duties with their partner). By selecting an accredited MBA program, attendees can ensure the curriculum is reflective of current business demands, offers competency-based and relevant learning, and can help prepare them to outshine the competition upon graduation.
Peer support. Covid-19 has significantly interrupted the social connections keeping women mentally resilient in uncertain times. The most recent Gallup poll indicated 25% of those surveyed indicated their mental well-being was already suffering as a result of social distancing requirements. The online learning environment can help to reignite connections with peers while still maintaining safe distances. Learning in a cohort also provides access to a network of individuals with similar interest areas, career pursuits, and experiences. And while in-person meetings with executive leadership are on hold, the pivot nationally (and globally) to a virtual business world creates accessibility to a wider network of leaders and alumni.
Competitive Edge. After the pandemic has ended and working restrictions are lifted, women will likely see greater flexibility in work from home policies than before. A Gallup poll on working from home arrangements found that among managers overseeing employees working from home, 55% expected the experience of Covid-19 to permanently change their remote work policies post-pandemic. Learning the skills necessary to successfully lead not only in the office setting, but now in the new virtual world of work, is an essential skill set that will benefit MBA students in the long-term.
MBAs continue to be an invaluable option for women on their pathway to greater earnings and career options, even as Covid-19 continues to shift the world as we once knew it. By putting in the time now, creating a solid network of virtual peers, and taking strides to be ahead of the curve in anticipating the solutions for current business challenges, women can be empowered to step into and thrive in leadership roles nationwide.
Dr. Bernice Ledbetter, Ed.D, serves as dean of students and alumni affairs, director of the Center for Women in Leadership, and practitioner faculty at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School.