The Great Resignation:

How to Bring Back (and Keep) Women in the Workforce

What are some recruitment and retention strategies that can help businesses strengthen and rebuild the ranks of women across their workforces? Can businesses offer the kind of employment value proposition needed to attract and retain this essential segment of workers in today's transformed work environment?

Underscoring the critical needs of retaining the talent they have now, as well as filling the gaps created during the Great Resignation, our talent leaders explore why so many women left the workforce or changed jobs in recent years and what can be done about it. Orion Talent provides expert insight from a dynamic panel of talent acquisition and HR experts who are working through these challenges in their own organizations.

Meet our experts:

Sign up for Diversity Equity & Inclusion insights from Orion Talent delivered right to your inbox.

Optimize Talent Access and Hiring Results

Building strategic DEI objectives that foster diversity and inclusion has never been more important. Explore how Orion Talent can optimize your diversity outreach.

Complete the form to request information on our HirePurpose® Diversity Sourcing and Talent Attraction Solutions.

Complete this form to get started with HirePurpose® Diversity Sourcing and Talent Attraction.

Service(s) You Are Interested In:
  • Diversity Outreach & Talent Attraction
  • Veteran Outreach & Talent Attraction
  • Programmatic Job Advertising
  • Employment Branding
  • Source and Screen


How did you find out about Orion Talent?*

The Great Resignation FAQs

Why did women leave the workforce?

Termed the "Great Female Resignation", many women left the workforce during COVID-19 pandemic. Their departure outnumbered men and is thought to be because of:

  • Childcare and homeschooling responsibilities: Many working mothers found themselves taking on the full-time care and education of their children, leaving little time for their career.
  • Job loss due to economic instability: The pandemic also brought lays off which disproportionately affected women, especially in the areas of hospitality, retail, and healthcare.

Should we expect continued attrition among women in the workplace?

As the pandemic ended and the economy rebounded, women saw their job opportunities increase. However, continued economic instability means their jobs _________. Some underlying themes of the Great Female Resignation remain hurdles for professional women. Childcare, while available again, is expensive, and it may be hard for women to return from the role they played in their household during the pandemic. On the other hand, flexible and remote work environments are now the norm, making it easier for women to juggle competing demands on their time.

What can businesses do to retain female employees and attract new ranks of women?

An inclusive workplace is important to recruiting and retaining female talent. Inclusivity policies that support work/life balance and providing opportunities for professional development and growth. Another way to attract female talent is by sponsoring events and organizations that are designed to support and inspire women in the workforce. Most importantly, the process should fair and transparent. Flexible work arrangements, family-friendly benefits, pay equity, and leadership opportunities in addition to inclusive cultures are all great ways to ensure you retain your female employees.

How can women and men support an inclusive workplace?

Active allyship and DEI action help to create an inclusive environment, especially when supported by both men and women. This could look like company-sponsored events, training, or education. Open communication and collaboration can often help uncover and address inequality before it becomes an issue. Working together, men and women can ensure a safe and respectful workplace that celebrates belonging.

Read the Full Transcript

Laura Schmiegel:

Thank you everyone for joining us today for the 2022 continuation of Orion Talent's Webinar series focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Today's presentation is titled The Great Resignation: How to Bring Back (and Keep) Women in the Workforce. We are going to start the Webinar shortly as people are still streaming in.

Hello everyone and welcome!

My name is Laura Schmiegel, I am the SVP Strategic Partnerships Orion Talent for Orion Talent, and your moderator today. Today's Orion Talent DEI Webinar is focused on women and their mass exodus from the workforce over the last two years and how employers can respond.

As we explore this important topic, I could not have asked for a more impressive and thoughtful panel and I would like to introduce them now.

Today, I am joined by Sakita Douglas and Allison Joyce.

Sakita Douglas who is the Chief Talent Officer Harris County. That's a big talent job for one of the country's geographically largest and most populous counties. Sakita, I am thrilled you are here to offer your CTO experience and insights.

Our second panelist is Allison Joyce who is Vice President Talent Partner for Walmart. Again, these are big jobs with sprawling workforces. Allison, it's so good to have you as well. I know we are all going to have a great talk.

But before we jump into the conversation, let me explain how you can participate as part of the audience.

First, if you have a question, you do not have to wait for our QA time at the end of the panel discussion. You can add your questions to the chat any time.

Our team will monitor and let me know when we have questions from the audience to dig into. If we don't get to it right away, we will add it to our QA section.

So, ask away when your questions come to mind

In addition, we have added a couple of poll questions for you out there in the audience so you can share your thoughts and insights and this panel can reacting. Participating in those is simple. You just use the tools right on your Zoom screen when the poll questions pop up.

And with that, we are ready to start. I am going to set the stage with a bit of data on women in the workforce and what's happened over the last two years.

Most of us here have seen the evidence in our workplaces and among our colleagues and peers, but here is the data behind the exodus of women from the workforce since 2020:

The majority of pandemic-related job losses were experienced by women.

Since February 2020, U.S. women have lost more than 5.4 million jobs compared to 4.4 million lost by men.

If we jump to today, things are still grim for women. The most recent jobs report from the BLS shows that more than one million men joined the labor force compared to just 39,000 women.

Men have recouped their pandemic job losses while 1.1 million women remain out of the labor force.

You see a pattern here, right? Let's look at it in even starker terms...

When we talk about the great resignation, we are really talking about women. Men found new jobs and are back. It's the women who are gone and struggling to come back.

It's important to note that it's not a new story. Labor force participation among women has been steadily declining since the Great Recession of 2008 and the pandemic put it in a nose dive.

We also have to recognize the reality that motherhood plays a big role. One-third of all mothers in the pandemic scaled back or left their careers to take care of their children.

As we think about the impact for employers and for us as talent leaders, we also need to think about the impact it has on women's lives. Earnings and career trajectories have been stunted by the pandemic.

So that's the big data picture when it comes to the Great Resignation and women. Let's take an up-close look at the story through the experience of the business leaders on our panel.

Here is my first question to both of you: Did you see a pattern in your organizations that reflects the data I just shared. Did more women than men leave your organizations over the last two years? If so, why did they leave?

Sakita, can I start with you?

Sakita Douglas:

I would love to share what I saw. At the start of the pandemic, I was working in Oil and Gas and the layoffs were fast and large. After I joined Harris County in 2021, I have seen continued attrition of lots of women from the workforce and these are the reasons they are most often leaving:

  • Childcare or caring for an older or disabled family member
  • Needing more flexibility to work remotely or part time
  • Lack of satisfaction and purpose in work


I also made a career switch in the pandemic, Sakita, so I think talking about mobility among professional women will be something we can hit on as well. Allison, what has been your personal experience with women leaving the workforce since 2020? Have you seen a lot and if so, what reasons were women in your workplaces leaving?

Allison Joyce:

Early in the pandemic we saw layoffs. I was working in the technology sector at the time and one thing we started to see, even early on, was women finding more time for their home lives, whether that was children, spouses, their local communities and passions, etc. When the stark days of lockdowns were done, the return to work as we had once became too much for many. I think of it as a major reckoning and it happened for me too.

In my own personal experience, I had outsourced most of my life. I had designed my life where a lot of the role of being a mom and caretaker was handled by others, from house cleaners and dry cleaners to nannies, etc. Suddenly in the pandemic I was finding a ton of value and satisfaction in cooking with my family, in more time together. It was an awakening for me and I think a lot of women had that same moment. They said, I am going to rebuild my worklife to suit what's possible for the life I want...if that means a new job, no job or starting my own business. That's what I have seen a ton of.


I agree. I have so many women across my networks who have started their own businesses in the last two years.

Let's jump to the audience and hear what their experience has been:

So audience, here is a poll question for you. Simply respond right on the screen:

The question is... What are the top 3 reasons women in your organizations have given for leaving over the last two years? So, you can select up to three and we can see what overlaps today.


  • No choice: layoff/furlough
  • Childcare
  • Disabled family member care or elder care
  • Wanting to keep or find remote work
  • New job offer
  • Unhappy with employer/job
  • Starting their own business
  • Looking for more (growth, money, responsibility, etc.)

Thanks to everyone for joining in that first poll. Now let's turn the questions back to the panel

  • So, millions of women are still out there, and we have millions of jobs across the country open. So how can we as talent leaders advise businesses and organizations to help them bring women back. Allison let's start with you.


I think the first thing we need to do is to rethink the idea of turning offices into everything. Here's what I mean.

For years, the strategy to attract and retain talent among top employers was to make the office the place where everything can be done. Free food, coffee shops, fitness centers, dry cleaning, car washing. The idea was that the more of your life that can be done at work, the more of your time you will spend at work. It was a strategic entanglement of work and life. Workplaces were designed for it with yoga rooms, sleep centers, etc.

The challenge now? People have realized they really enjoy their life outside of work. They don't want the two deeply connected. They don't want to go to the office for everything.

So for me, that's an important place to start. Detangling worklife life from life and allowing women and all workers to have boundaries. That can come in the form of flexible schedules, remote work, even sabbatical time.


It is interesting to think of how the campus work model has been destabilized over the last two years. Sakita, what do you think businesses need to do to bring women back?


In Harris County we have a diversity of jobs. Some that can be done from anywhere and many that have to be done onsite, firefighters, police, road crews. So remote work isn't always an option but the flexibility Allison mentioned does apply. Flexible hours, paid time off. Medical and family leave policies. There are all things businesses and employers can and should look into.

I also think women are hungry for opportunity and growth. The pandemic put everything into sharp focus in terms of what matters and what doesn't. Talented and ambitious people are going to want to grow and demonstrate that they can learn in a workplace, gain skills, advance. Those are all things that I think will help women return.

This is really a watershed moment and a time employers can get really creative and push back against 8-5 work hour rules and limited part-time rules. What about job sharing? There are so many possibilities and if employers don't create them, women will make their own by consulting and building their own businesses.


love your message that this is a watershed moment. That is really how it feels and I wonder if it's the same for our audience. Let's check in with them through another poll and see what their thoughts on what needs to be done to bring women back.

So, audience, here is our second poll question for you: What is the most important thing you think your business could do to recruit, hire and retain more women?


  • Childcare credits
  • Remote work
  • Flexible schedules
  • Paid family leave
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Formal training and career development
  • Higher compensation

Thank you all for weighing in. Now let's grill our panel a little more.

So our first few questions put the burden on employers, which is normal in a job market with few candidates, right? Employers have to do the heavy lifting because job seekers and employees have more options than ever. That said, we as talent and human capital management professionals know that career growth and success depends on both parties, the employer and the employee. So here's my next question to the panel. What do women need to do and ask for at this unprecedented time to get what they want from the workplace and their careers? Allison, let's start with your insights.


I love that you said, what do women need to ask for because I think that is the most important place to start, and I don't mean "What should women be asking for from their employers?" I think women need to start by asking themselves, "What I am willing to do for my career, and what am I not willing to do?"

Maybe you want a path to the C-suite or top of the house operations in the business? Maybe you are determined to increase skills and knowledge but prefer a horizontal growth path that allows for variety but greater flexibility? Maybe you want more career development but distance from training and exposure to SMEs and leaders during the pandemic was harder to get? Maybe you want more flexibility? Maybe you want to switch career gears entirely and try a new department or role?

Women should take advantage of this time when they can ask for the want and get really focused on exactly what that is. Take advantage of career coaching and mentors. Explore your limitless ambitions and the limits you need to draw to take care of yourself. Employers can encourage their woman employees to leverage career coaching and mentoring resources to help women (and all their employees) gain clarity.

If you know your goals as well as your boundaries, you put yourself in a stronger position to ask for and get what you want and also knowing how to say no to what you can't do.

I also think it's really important that we are factoring men into this work. It's a multi-gender workforce and it's going to take all of us to succeed. Including men in the effort to boost women and their opportunities is critical to the ongoing diversification of workplaces and especially in top of the house leadership roles.


I love your messages, especially the reminder to now just hop on a track. Figure out what you want from your career and shape it. That's such a great lesson in taking ownership for what you want on the job. Sakita, how about you. What are your thoughts on what women need to do right now?


I wholeheartedly agree with both of you. I always say that we need to be intentional in our work at Harris Country as we support people in their careers. That means putting strategic and compassionate intentions behind the programs we are building, the offers we are making and the journeys we are creating for our employees. Being intentional means we have to know what our employees want and need. How do you know? Just as Allison mentioned, you have to ask them. We have to remind ourselves that we don't always have to have the answers as talent leaders. Knowing people also means knowing how to ask people what they want and need.

That also means that women need to have answers and be intentional in thinking about their career goals and paths. We need to be focused and intentional about what we want from employers and our careers.

I also think women need to remember that their priorities will change over the course of their lives. Women at age 24 with few ties and major responsibilities will have very different perspectives and goals compared to a woman in her mid thirties with a family to manage and care for. We see that all the time in HR. Helping women consider the long game and how their goals might evolve is important. It can help employees get more focused in their planning and goal setting.


Absolutely and we all know that those kinds of changes occur for people of all genders and professionals. For women, however, we have to acknowledge the reality that women are still taking on the majority of work at home, whether that's being in charge of outsourcing it, as Allison mentioned, or taking it on themselves. Like the data showed us at the beginning, it's a women-driven great resignation and that has been mostly out of necessity.

Thank you for those insights, Allison and Sakita and congratulations to you both on your new roles and adventure. Before I open this up to questions, I want to share a few key takeaways that we as a panel wanted to make sure we left attendees with as you focus on building strong teams and recovering and recruiting women.

Share the numbers. The Great Resignation is a majority women phenomenon. Share that fact with hiring managers and leaders to win support for focusing on attracting, developing and retaining women.

Ask the Question. Employers and hiring managers need to talk to women candidates and employees candidly. Ask what they want and encourage them to be intentional in their career planning.

Don't Drop Flexibility. The remote work revolution was pandemic driven but that doesn't mean it has to leave with it. Consider how flexible work options improved people's lives and work in your organization and find out where remote, hybrid, flexible hours and schedules, etc. can stay.

With that done, let's open this up to some questions. Maygan, any questions for us?

Well, that is all the time we have. Thank you to everyone who joined us today and especially to this incredible panel Sakita and Allison. We will be sure to keep you informed of the next event in our Orion Talent webinar series. Thanks everyone and have a great afternoon.