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Sara McPhee Lafkas

Susan R. Madsen

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


The COVID-19 pandemic upended countless lives all over the world. Considerable research has shown that women’s career progression has been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men’s, especially in the wake of school closures and increased childcare responsibilities. In order to understand more deeply the impact of the pandemic on women’s careers, a large mixed-method survey was conducted in Idaho, a western state in the United States. This article reports on the responses of 2564 respondents to one of three open-ended questions taken from the overall survey, namely: “How has the pandemic impacted your career advancement experiences and opportunities over the short term and longer term?” The article frames the findings of this question by outlining workplace conditions and structures that contributed to women not advancing prior to the pandemic and applies the lenses of identity theory and systems psychodynamic theory to illustrate tendencies for workers and organizations to maintain the gendered dynamics that impede women’s career advancement. Findings included 59.1 percent of respondents who described a negative effect on their career advancement caused by the pandemic. Overarching themes and sub-themes were identified from these negative effects. Overarching themes included: (1) “Everything is on hold”; (2) “Lost or relinquished opportunity”; (3) “Reevaluation of Career”; and (4) “Experiences by Characteristics.” The latter theme highlighted unique experiences women faced versus men and manifested the gendered dynamics identified by identity and psychodynamic theories. Findings highlighted the importance of making workplace changes such as more flexible work and/or hybrid work arrangements, improved leave policies, the provision of childcare and other support services, and government policies that eliminate gendered barriers to women’s career advancement.

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