Five lessons women leaders in media learned while working during the pandemic

group of women leaders

2 August 2022 | By: Jareen Imam, Sr. Content and Editorial Manager

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a disproportionate impact on women when it comes to taking on more household work, managing childcare and juggling career responsibilities according to a 2021 study by McKinsey. 1 About two million women have faced pandemic-related job loss or left the labour force during the pandemic, according to a 2021 report from National Women’s Law Centre. 2 And globally, women’s employment dropped by 4.2% between 2019 and 2020, more than a percentage point higher than it dropped for men, a 2021 report by the International Labour Organization found.3

For the women who continued working, many have had to adapt in order to manage their families, health, professions and personal responsibilities. Amazon Ads and UK organization Women in Advertising and Communications Leadership (WACL) hosted a panel featuring four advertising and media industry leaders who spoke about how they’ve been navigating the changing work environment and how those changes have impacted their professional and personal lives.

Here are five takeaways from women working in leadership positions in advertising and media on how work and personal spaces can be more equitable for women.

1. Share responsibilities when possible

Radha Davies, Director of Brand Communications and Creative at Sainsbury’s, said that during the peak of the pandemic she saw a shift of responsibilities in her personal life and in her professional career. With more individuals being at home, working off laptops, Davies said it became more visible how much work women were juggling between their home and office responsibilities.

“I think women started to ask a lot more of their partners, and that enabled men to take their fair share of responsibilities. That's been a really, really positive thing,” Davies said. “Flexible working that came out of the pandemic has also helped. I love seeing men on my team now taking time off to go to school plays or take their kids to a party. I do feel that shared responsibility that peaked during the pandemic has sustained.”

Laura Belchier, Head of Retail and Hospitality for Amazon Ads, said she’s seeing more male peers working at other companies who are taking time off to be with their families. “I'm starting to see a lot more posts on LinkedIn from men sharing their parental leave experiences or telling their networks that they're taking a career break to be the primary caregiver, which is incredible. I hadn’t seen that before,” she said. “I just hope we see more equal parental responsibility, especially in those early years of childhood.”

2. Have space for the hard conversations

The pandemic brought a lot of changes to working conditions. Rania Robinson, CEO and Partner of agency Quiet Storm, said that with those changes, this has been a time for women working in the media and advertising industries to have tough conversations with their partners.

“The pandemic has opened the opportunity for conversations about division of labour in the home, at best. It has allowed couples to re-evaluate and reappraise what works in their home. At worst, it has meant that women have been incredibly impacted. But allowing us to have these conversations has been a really good thing,” Robinson said.

3. Try flexible solutions

Several panel speakers touched on the importance of flexible working hours and the need for more solutions to help support workers as they continue to work in hybrid or remote environments. Robinson said that her team has been actively promoting flexible working.

“We're providing tool kits and frameworks that people can literally download from the WACL website. There are plenty of employers that are delivering flexible working options. That’s been probably the best thing that has come out from the pandemic for corporate work culture,” Robinson added.

4. Lead with empathy

As many people work longer hours, Robinson said that remembering to stay empathetic has been important in retaining workers and making a positive impact on employees.4

“Empathetic leadership became very important during the pandemic. And it’s not exclusive to women, but we do over index in those areas. This put female leadership at the forefront and created an opportunity for women leaders,” Robinson said. “But it also put a lot of pressure on female leaders to deliver on that type of leadership too.”

During the State of Women at Work panel held in London, women leaders discussed the value of empathetic leadership in the workplace.

5. Be kind to yourself

Deborah Joseph, the European Editorial Director of Glamour who moderated the panel, said it was important for women to remember to be kind to themselves too.

“At some point, you have to just be kind to yourself and just think, I’m doing the best I possibly can in the worst and most difficult circumstance. I saw my team’s setup, and some of them were living with housemates or crammed into a kitchen. They saw me and my ridiculous situation at home with my children and dogs. There is definitely an empathy there now that I don't think was there before,” Joseph said.

Panelists dived into how work cultures have evolved and why it's important to stay kind, relevant and empathetic.

1 “Women in the workplace,” McKinsey & Company, global, 2021.
2 Covid-19 jobs related report, National Women’s Law Centre, US, 2020.
3 “Women’s rights to work and at work at the core of the COVID-19 recovery,” International Labour Organization, 2021, global .
4 “We work longer hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, research says,” Forbes, US, 2021.