The Future of Women in the Post-Pandemic WorkplaceJune 2, 2022
- It’s a great time for women to re-enter the workforce because of access to technology, making it possible to design your ideal career.
- Don’t just limit yourself to a mentor; find a sponsor, or someone who will actively push you forward in your career.
According to NBC’s Rhonda Walker, who moderated a discussion of women business leaders, 170,000 women left the workforce during the pandemic in Michigan. There are many reasons for this, ranging from lack of child care to reevaluating their career.
When considering the different reasons, it becomes fairly obvious that the overarching reason so many women left the workforce was that “it all fell on [their] shoulders,” as Nancy Tellem, executive chair for Eko and co-founder and chief executive officer of BasBlue, said during the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference session The Future for Women in the Post-Pandemic Workplace.
Tellem was joined by panelists Jeanette M. Abraham, founder, president, and chief executive officer of JMA Global, LLC, Joi M. Harris, president and chief operating officer of DTE Gas.
During the session, the panel of women discussed their journeys to leadership positions at their respective organizations and offered advice for women – including those who left the workforce – who aspire to return and/or rise in their careers.
“I actually think that this is one of the most exciting times right now because the way in which people are working has changed due to technology. Depending on your skill set, you can really design the kind of job that you want,” said Tellem.
For those who aren’t sure what type of jobs they want, Tellem promoted BasBlue, a membership-based nonprofit that connects women of all career levels with one another to grow their networks, inspire one another, and develop their careers. Through BasBlue, women can participate in educational programming and its mentorship program.
Programs like BasBlue can also be a great way to find “sponsors,” which Harris said is crucial to getting into the roles you want. It’s how she grew at DTE, where she started at 15-years-old by shadowing engineers. Once she went to college and came back, she rose from a technician to someone who ran a compressor station, systems operations, and more before entering leadership.
“You need mentors, but you also need sponsors, and those are the folks that are going to open doors for you and give you very crisp feedback because they see you in action, because they have witnessed your work,” said Harris. “Seek out both. Don’t just anchor yourself to a mentor because he or she may only react to what you tell them. They don’t necessarily have full context.”
In addition to having mentors, Abraham said continuing to make “positive steps” and advocating for yourself even if you don’t feel confident about what you’re doing is important to growing your career.
“The bottom line is, if you can’t love on yourself to make sure that you can compete and participate in the game, you can’t expect somebody to work harder for you than you do for yourself,” Abraham said.