Keeping Women at Work
March is Women’s History Month. The pandemic has made it painfully clear – despite all the progress women have made on many fronts – how much responsibility still rests on the shoulders of women, and how difficult and sometimes impossible it is for them to build successful careers while raising their families. When the pandemic made it impossible for children to attend school in person, women by-and-large had to assume the lion’s share of responsibility for at-home learning while running their own careers, alongside the “junior colleagues” sitting next to them in their home offices. With affordable childcare in short supply, many had no other option. Women of color were disproportionately impacted, in part because of their strong representation in industries such as hospitality and leisure that were shut down in the pandemic. Those stark realities contributed to what many deemed a “female recession.”
As they face all of this pressure, one-in-three working mothers is now thinking about leaving the workforce or scaling back their careers. If they actually do leave, this is a lose-lose-lose. They lose their professional careers and upward mobility, their employers lose their contributions, and their families lose their income. And when women are single parents, it’s an especially frightening prospect.
A potential mass exodus of women will severely affect businesses, which can’t afford to squander so much talent. As we emerge from the crisis, more companies and organizations need to start looking for ways to keep women engaged, and on their teams, so they don’t lose future leaders. Otherwise, we will continue to see a talent drain in many fields – including those, like accounting, where it has taken decades of effort to increase female representation at the top tiers of management.
Marcum believes in talent for talent’s sake, and I’m very proud of the flexible work policies we’ve had in place largely to accommodate the needs of our women professionals – long before “remote work” was even a concept. Our policies date back to the early 1990’s and have enabled many outstanding women to build careers with real upward mobility while raising their families. Some women opted to work part-time while their families were young and then, as their children grew up, transitioned back into full-time work, confident that this would not “mommy track” them. Carolyn Mazzenga, our office managing partner in Melville, N.Y. and national leader of our Family Wealth Services group, for instance, is one of the high-profile women in our firm who tapped into our flexible work programs in the early days of her career. Today Carolyn, who actually became the first woman partner at Marcum, is a role model for other women at our firm who are working hard to achieve similar success in their own careers. Beth Wiener, Rorrie Gregorio, Ilyssa Blum, Michele Lipson, Janet Levy, Dani Gisondo, Kathy Raffa, Lisa Hanlon, Jenny Deloy, and Lori Rock, to name just a few, all have careers with similar stories.
The bottom line is women should not have to choose between their careers and their family responsibilities in 2021. As we’ve seen at Marcum, putting systems in place that allow for flexibility can make a world of difference. Armed with the lessons learned from the pandemic, we plan to keep improving on our own approach to flexible work, so outstanding women continue to want to work here, rise through our ranks and keep our firm on the cutting edge. Most of the women who are achieving great things in every field today are doing so in the workplace, and we want to do all we can to support the women on our team at Marcum.
This weekend starts the Jewish holiday of Passover, which marks the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Happy Passover to those of you who observe.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and remember we’re all in this together!