By Kate Banasiak | President and CEO, Diversified Management Services

Since the 1970s, we’ve worked hard on gender equity in the workplace, but over the last six months, the headlines show how much women are sliding backward as we struggle to handle work and the ongoing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

I, like you, am scared for what this might mean for small businesses, for our recovery and for the future of our daughters. If we are going to keep moving forward, we must all lean into each other and start the conversations about how we can stop the slide.

Here are my top five ideas on how to advocate for your career during the pandemic.

1. Start the conversation and ask for HELP!

Research shows women fail at asking for help. Why? Because we created this notion that in order to be a strong, independent, super woman you must handle it all.

Wipe this from your mind. Talk to your family or pick up the phone and call a friend or co-worker and start to have conversations about your struggles. Ask for their ideas, for their support and even go as far as to ask for HELP!

2. Evaluate your resources.

I received great advice about four months ago to start writing down my gains and losses so we could figure out how to move our family through this for the long haul. While we had to do school at home and take care of a 1-year-old while running two small businesses, we also gained hours back in our day by not carting kids around. We saved money on child care, gas and many other things.

Don’t let these gains go to waste. Use them toward supporting your career goals. Is there a class that might help you be more efficient? Can you put that gas money toward a sitter or a tutor? Most important, what are you doing with that time?

3. Identify a circle and create a partnership.

We have a son who is considered high risk. We sat down and had very real conversations with our pediatrician about what that meant for us going forward. He suggested we identify a consistent circle of people that surrounds our family.

I have several friends who have done the same. They are using these small circles, or bubbles, to rotate child care and are now leaning in together to create micro-schools. By combining the resources we gained together, we can move the bar even further.

4. Prepare a plan for your employer.

Having a well-thought-out plan goes a long way. Start putting down on paper where you might need flexibility and what you might be able to give in exchange. We’ve recently started leaning into concepts of "time chunking" and working during your peak performance times in our company. This has helped our employees make huge gains in their ability to hit the outcomes our clients need while flexing schedules based on their personal situations.

5. Know your rights.

Congress put into place FFCRA and FMLA laws to help protect employees. These programs are not just for big businesses, so reach out and see where your company falls. The great part is these programs allow you to receive partial pay at no expense to your employer if there is a restriction on you working due to quarantine, lack of child care, school or having to care for immediate family. You must apply for these, though, so it’s important that you are proactive in having the conversation about using these resources.

There is a reason they say "it takes a village," so remember to include yours as you help define the future.

Kate Banasiakis president and CEO of Diversified Management Services. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in business management. She is past president of Lead Like a Lady and volunteers for several other civic organizations. Banasiak is a 2012 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and a 2014 graduate of Goldman Sachs 10KSB Small Business, and has also been recognized in the Business Record's 40 Under Forty for 2013. Kate can be reached via email.