Let’s Make Real History During Women’s History Month and Return Women to the Workforce!


Rebecca Cenni-Leventhal, Founder and CEO of Atrium

The impact of COVID-19 changed the workforce last year in unimaginable ways and the ramifications continue to unfold making the ever-changing, newly regulated business landscape difficult to fully understand. Almost instantaneously the physical boundaries which once separated our homes from our offices were redefined for the sake of business viability and survival, challenging leaders to redefine management strategies to effectively communicate and guide staff within remote environments. Many companies instituted large-scale organizational changes, and with that, employees were tasked with changes to their workloads as well as rapid needs to upskill. In many cases, through erasing physical lines between work and home in many cases, the quest for work-life balance was sidelined.  This, plus worries about family, health, and finances created a perfect recipe for pandemic burnout, for both women and men. 

The Loss of Women in the Workforce Must be Reversed

While pandemic burnout affected both women and men in the workforce, the impact of COVID-19 on women is particularly painful. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.2 million fewer women in the labor force in October 2020 than in October 2019, and this past December alone, women accounted for 100% of reported job losses. While some women left predominately female fields like nursing and education to pursue continued learning and/or invest in their personal wellbeing, recent data from Lean In and McKinsey & Company shows that women were more likely to be laid-off and furloughed as a result of the virus, or were forced to resign. Many also felt pressure to take a step back from ambitious roles to accommodate caregiving and schooling responsibilities at home. The pandemic impact has the potential to erase much of the recent progress women have made in the workforce.  For someone like me who has dedicated my career to empowering women to be leaders, this has been disheartening news.  

When faced with unconscious bias and limited workplace support, making it to the top can seem like an out-of-reach goal, even for the most determined women. We may be able to credit some of the exit numbers in chiefly female fields like marketing and communications and business administration, and to talented women who chose entrepreneurship over mid-level roles that lacked their desired compensation or career trajectory. However, the reality is that these women are not the majority. The absence of female talent will be felt deeply by the businesses who lost it. 

Bring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to Our Organizations, Be Mindful of Your People Programs

To retain and build up the value women bring to work, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion must be cemented to an organization’s mission, vision and value set. If your organization was forced to make cuts in staff yet is now in a more stable position to rebuild and hire, consider “returnship” programs.  Reach out to those women who left your company either because of their or your business’ economic needs.  Begin these dialogues with these women as you prepare to build back even stronger than ever before.  And what better way to do that than with those women who were such an integral part of your company!  

When building programs in your workforce to better support women, it’s important to consider what you can build today to further the potential of tomorrow’s talent. Organizations such as Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) can grow opportunities for women-led missions and create valuable partnerships for your business. Corporate partnerships with organizations such as Girl Talk, which are dedicated to developing leadership skills of young girls through mentorship and learning programs can be an invaluable way to invest in female leadership—a win for all as you help to create new leaders who will rise and leave their impact in history. 

Let’s Make Positive History During Women’s History Month

This is Women’s History Month. Let’s make Her the protagonist of our story!

About the Author: Rebecca Cenni-Leventhal is founder and CEO of Atrium, an all-inclusive partner for talent and contingent solutions established in 1995 with a trademarked legacy of Applicant-Centric™ recruitment and mission to build the workforce of tomorrow by putting people first. Often referred to as Atrium’s Chief Empowerment Officer, Rebecca is dedicated to safeguarding the human value in work culture by helping employer brands source unparalleled talent and technology-driven workforce solutions. Rebecca shares her appreciation for mentorship as a corporate partner and board member to 501c3 organization, Girl Talk Inc, and she is recognized by SIA as a 2021 Staffing 100 Most Influential Leader for elevating the industry and advancing the workforce solutions ecosystem through her business practices, processes, philosophies and people-first mindset. As a female founder and CEO, Cenni-Leventhal champions Diversity and Inclusion. She and her business are consistently recognized for innovation and growth by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC), Women’s President’s Organization (WPO) and Inc. 5000, topping lists such as Crain’s New York Best Places to Work 2020, Forbes Best Temp Staffing and America’s Best Professional Recruiting Firms 2020.