The pandemic hasn’t been easy for working moms.

Many working moms report handling more housework. With schools closed, moms have provided the bulk of child care, and are more likely to have their paid work hours reduced and to have experienced some degree of psychological distress during the pandemic.  

However, one positive to the challenges working moms have encountered is how each one has created an opportunity for businesses to create a more supportive work culture, according to a new survey by Catalyst.

In the survey, 7 out of 10 respondents overall said they believe the coronavirus pandemic will accelerate and have a positive impact on gender equality in the workplace.

"If we take what we've learned and not view it as just a response to a crisis but what good management and good organizations look like, we have a chance of leaving the pandemic stronger and more inclusive than we entered it," Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, co-founder of the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab and a lead diversity strategist for the Stanford Graduate School of Business, told the Lily.

Conducted June 1-5, Catalyst surveyed 1,100 U.S. business leaders and employees to gauge their perceptions of gender equity initiatives tied to pandemic-driven workplace conditions.

Some skepticism remains about current conditions and whether companies will act.

In the same survey, fewer than half (41%) of working employees think their company is fully committed to — and already taking steps to create — an inclusive workplace in which employees can thrive during this time of remote working, physical building closures and other changes as a result of the pandemic.

There’s also a gap between business leaders and the people they manage.

Business leaders are more likely than employees to believe the pandemic is providing companies with an opportunity to create more inclusive workplaces for women (75% vs. 60%). Business leaders are also more likely to believe that working remotely has facilitated a more inclusive environment (56% vs. 28%).

There is also a division in perception of company action — 56% of business leaders are more likely to believe that their company is taking steps to enhance gender equity during this pandemic, as compared with 34% of employees.

Additionally, a majority of respondents think the new working environment will affect their future by providing a better work-life balance and control over their work schedule.

Lorraine Hariton, president and CEO of Catalyst, said the survey results reveal clear tension between leaders and employees.

"To narrow the optimism divide between business leaders and employees, there needs to be clear communication on company goals, actions, and commitments from all levels, but especially from those in leadership positions," Hariton said in a news release. "This communication and intentional action are essential to inclusive leadership and are critical to advancing gender and racial equity in the workplace."

A few other takeaways:

  • More women business leaders than men business leaders believe that taking action on gender equity is more important now than it was before the coronavirus (80% vs. 66%).
  • At the same time, more women business leaders than men business leaders trust their company to create a more inclusive work environment in the future (80% vs. 75%).
  • More employees than business leaders fear that the coronavirus has negatively affected their prospects for a promotion (60% vs. 28%).

Read the full report online.