30 September 2020

COVID-19 is destroying women’s careers, but also giving an opportunity towards WorkLife balance

The current pandemic has brought disorder to the lives of many. Unpredictability has crept into all the pores of our lives and sometimes we feel like we are on shaky feet. However, this doesn’t mean that new possibilities for growth and change are impossible. One of them, according to renowned consultant Avivah Wittenberg-Cox., is reshaping the life path. She has divided women’s careers into four phases, which might cheer you up, especially if you believe you there is no room for change after your thirties or forties.

COVID-19 has had negative impacts on the number of employed women. How do we manage our careers during the current crisis? How do we plan the next step when we are not able to visualize the days to come? How do we let go of a dream that seemed so achievable to us just a few months ago? What to do if we suddenly lose our job? These are just some of the questions that are swirling in the minds of women around the world.

While we have good reasons to ask ourselves such questions, we may sometimes need to rise above short-term predictions and look at the situation from a broader perspective. When a crisis occurs, we have the opportunity to think about redrawing our life path. This is the opinion of Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, a reputable consultant who has been working for decades to improve the gender and generational balance and the balance of nationality in many business organizations.
Based on her rich experience, Avivah divided women’s careers into four phases, which we will touch on in more detail, and which she elaborated on in her book “Four Phases of Women’s Careers: Becoming Gender Bilingual”.

The 20s: A decade of ambition for learning, discovery, growth and independence

The twenties are a period of ambition. After graduation, women around the world are educated, ambitious and equal. Globally, women make up 60% of all graduates. Avivah concludes that many companies recruit men and women in equal proportions when they are in their twenties. In that period, everyone is satisfied. Companies are satisfied because they have an equal number of employed men and women, and women are satisfied because they have the opportunity to gain new skills and experience. This idyll, according to Avivah, lasts until the thirties.

The 30s: Culture Shock – The Period When Potential Parenthood Invades Corporate Culture

The more ambitious and successful women are, the more likely they are to suddenly experience a culture shock in their thirties. Women who have put their careers at the top of their priorities suddenly delay career development due to marriage and children and focus on private life. While some women will remain single, most will find partners and have children. For most women, this transition occurs between the ages of 30 and 35, when the shock occurs.

In most companies, the early thirties are the period when women develop their skills the most and when they get a promotion. With children entering women’s lives, women dedicate themselves to their children and quit or simply separate from work. Unfortunately, in that period, women “fall out of the game” because the path of development in companies is still designed for men who have women who are not employed. Avivah considers it a real shame because women are reaching their full potential after their thirties.

The 40s: Re-acceleration – Restoring focus to career priorities

The forties represent “awakening”. After many women in their thirties feel as if their lives have derailed, in their forties both the private and business segments of life take their place. Finally, the time has come for them to be more independent, so they are happy to return to business challenges and are highly motivated to continue working on themselves.

Although women in their forties are extremely motivated, companies consider them “expired goods”. Guided by the development of men, companies do not consider women in their forties for high positions. In addition to recognizing the value of women in their forties, companies should also encourage the use of parental leave by fathers so that women can use their thirties to work on their careers.

The 50s: Self-actualization – Experiencing a career peak

Every decade of life relies on the previous one. Both women and men, in the second “half-life”, rely on the first. Yet, as the period is different, men after a thirty-year sprint in their careers focus on slowing down life, while for women the story is quite different. After caring for others for a period of time, in their fifties, they finally find time for themselves. This phase does not end at the age of 59, Avivah points out. Women also become leaders in their sixties.

What are women supposed to do? What do men and companies have to do?

Avivah emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with these stages of career development if women come to business self-actualization. Still, it’s not fair that career development in many companies is designed for men who are more committed to careers in their thirties and forties.

The current pandemic has just highlighted this difference between the career paths of women and men. Therefore, this is an opportunity for companies to introduce gender equality in designing a development path within companies that would be more tailored to women, designing a path that would not reject women in their forties and fifties. Also, as men work more from home, this is an opportunity for them to help women more often in household chores and to think more intensively about using parental leave to share responsibilities equally.

Of course, it will take a long time for companies to adapt more to the development path of women. Until the situation improves, it is up to women to negotiate with men about the division of household chores in order to more easily establish WorkLife balance.

To conclude, women, don’t be intimidated if you need to wait a little longer to reach the peak of your career. You can have it all: career, family, partner… but not all at once. So sit down, pause your life and try to map your place in life and set goals. Whatever stage you are in, do not prepare for short sprints, but for a marathon because good things take time, therefore – let time be your friend, not your enemy. Good luck in reshaping your life!

Should you wish to learn more about the MAMFORCE certification process, get in touch. We are looking forward to helping you develop your own employer brand.

    We are interested in:


    Be the first one to read our news

        Become a MAMFORCE INSIDER

        Be at the source of relevant topics in the field of diversity and inclusion, gender balance, and human and organisational development. Get special discounts on our education!