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COVID-19 is not only a test to our global economy, health and wellness, but also our human spirit.
The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities and exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems, particularly for women.
One example of unemployment data shows that 55 percent of people who have lost their job during this time are women.
Adding fuel to the fire: according to PayScale, the median salary for men is roughly 19 percent higher than the median salary for women in 2020. This is just a 7% percent improvement from 2019, when the median salary for men was roughly 26 percent higher than the median salary for women.
We have work to do - both men and women - to close this gap.
Women now effectively have to work four jobs: their day job, homeschooler, housekeeper and cook. Rarely are their effective corporate programs that help women - particularly working women - balance their responsibilities at home so they can continue to stay and thrive in the workforce.
Our team at Aneuvia commissioned a recent survey of 150+ corporate mothers with one or more children under 18 years old, and found an increase in primary caretaker responsibilities for corporate mothers (63%) and growing unavailability of third-party childcare (from 94% to 29%). When asked what employers can do to support corporate mothers, 44% respondents confirmed, greater flexibility with working hours - such as four-day work weeks.
Women need advocates now more than ever to feel supported, elevated and valued.
Harvard Business Review reveals that both men and women undervalue or fail to nurture a network of professional sponsors, yet women are 54 percent less likely than men to have a sponsor.
Without mentors, advocates and sponsors, women often decide to leave the workforce, experience burnout due to work-life imbalance and continue to suffer pay inequalities.
On the other hand, seventy percent of men and 68 percent of women who have a sponsor reported being satisfied with their career advancement. Women with sponsors are 27 percent more likely than their unsponsored female peers to ask for a raise and 22 percent more likely to ask for “stretch assignments” that go on to build their leadership reputation.
People invest in people who look like them.
Diversity is not a buzzword. By having a diverse workforce, we are more likely to learn about the concerns and preferences of various population segments, increase profit potential and create a more engaged workforce.
When we put women in leadership positions, we create a domino effect. They have power in an organization and can use their social influence, capital and credibility to advocate for other women, who are then elevated to positions of power.
Finally, putting women at the center of policy planning, workforce leadership development and financial program development will drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for all and support a more rapid recovery.
The global coronavirus has disrupted life in unimaginable ways and it has become very clear that our underlying social fabric may never be the way it ‘used to be.’ This pandemic has made it impossible to ignore the gaps in mental health awareness, lack of workplace policies to effectively support employees and the social inequalities in America.
In just the past week, first-time jobless claims totaled 1.4 million, and nearly 49 million jobless claims have been filed since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March. Becoming unemployed is inextricably linked to having a negative impact on mental health, and there are other contributing factors in the workplace, including:
- Inadequate health and safety policies
- Poor communication and management
- Limited decision-making abilities
- Lack of support for employees
- Inflexible working hours
- Lack of clarity with roles and responsibilities
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 264 million people suffer from depression across the world. In the U.S., nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. It is expected that only 41 percent of people who had a mental disorder in the past year received professional health care or other services.
The cost of poor employee mental health to businesses is significant:
- $80 billion to $100 billion in annual costs to U.S. businesses.
- $193 billion in lost earnings per year.
- 400 million lost work days annually due to depression.
- $1 trillion lost to the global economy each year in lost productivity
It’s not only good business, but socially responsible to create a healthy, progressive workplace that creates awareness for, and validates the importance of mental health.
Employers who prioritize mental health with treatment programs, workplace safety policies and progressive awareness initiatives not only increase productivity, secure their bottom line, but also create a viable and engaged workforce. Ultimately, prioritizing the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees will increase profit, improve lives, and transform culture.