Last week, I posted about something called the grooming gap and the unfair deficit women deal with compared to their male counterparts in the workplace. You can read the post here. To make matters worse, since the COVID pandemic, the unemployment statistics among women are devastating. In December 2020, women accounted for 100% of job losses that month. In the first 10 months of the pandemic, women – particularly women of color – have lost more jobs than men in industries dominated by women. January was just slightly better with women accounting for 80% of job losses or people looking for work. Between the impact of the employment crisis and the caregiving crisis, In less than a year, women have lost three decades of labor force gains.
Much of this goes back to some of the things I touched on in last week’s post, that workplaces aren’t entirely women-friendly and the hoops women need to jump through to simply be equal to their male counterparts. It’s why there has been a call by lawmakers for a robust gender-equitable recovery plan for things like better care infrastructure, ensuring equal and fair wages, and strong workplace protections.
Long before the pandemic crisis, women’s work has been undervalued with women historically earning 82% of what a man earns to do the same job, with an even larger disparity between women of color and men. And because women historically shoulder the wide range of caregiving responsibilities at home, 64.2% of working mothers who were either the primary or co-breadwinners lack access to work-family policies to enable them to participate fully in the labor force while managing their caregiving responsibilities.
It’s Not Just Unemployment, Women Have Dropped Out of the Workforce During COVID
In September alone, 863,000 women chose to opt-out of work due to the caregiving demands at home from a lack of child care, their children’s hybrid learning, or caring for a sick family member. No surprise, mothers have seen a disproportionate decline in employment compared with fathers. One of the biggest fears in all this is the long-term effects that this will have, with some worrying that the gender wage gap will only widen. The worrying question has been asked, when employers start hiring again, what the landscape will look like exactly?
Virtual Interview Looks
Regardless of whether the COVID relief package will pass to protect women as they claw their way back into the workforce either as a result of being let go or opting out to attend to family matters, women have huge lost territory to cover to make it back to the time where they outnumbered men in the workplace, which they have since 2010. Dress for Success, which helps women return to the workplace with proper clothing, mentoring, and more has smartly moved many of their services from in-person to virtual. There are also organizations actively helping women with employment during these challenging times, like Ellevate Network, The National Domestic Workers Alliance, Fairygodboss, and Ellevest, to name a few.
And while this is a small part of the equation, yet an important one, I am giving you some thoughts and virtual job interview looks to help you craft your image for your next interview.
Despite your interview being conducted virtually, you should still dress like you are appearing in person. In addition, research the company to understand the culture and dress code that is acceptable and dress accordingly. You want to put your best foot forward, even if it is through a screen.
I styled this Hobb’s brightly colored magenta blazer which will not only be memorable but appear well on camera with a basic navy t-shirt and comfortable yet tailored trousers from A.L.C.. I finished the look with rose-colored flats from Rothys, a Zoom-friendly statement necklace from Christian Siriano.
Despite the fact that a potential employer will only see the top 1/3 of your body, in all the looks I styled a complete outfit because it makes a difference. We sit and act differently when we are dressed better which can make a big impact on our personal presentation. You don’t have to go overboard but there is power found in putting effort toward the things that are not visible on camera. Second, structure. While a jacket or overly tailored look may not be critical to your interview look, a top that is too drapey or fluid may not read as crisp on camera. Choosing a top that is a bit more structured will read better.
I styled this M.M. Lafleur top with soft tailoring and finished with this necklace by Kendra Scott will look finished on camera. I styled the top half of this look, with side zip pants from Club Monaco and easy flats from Everlane.
Cardigans can be great for business-casual interviews but, again, it is important to consider your audience and also consider how you will look on camera during an interview. This rich green structured cardigan and relaxed cropped pants look will feel and look a bit more relaxed while looking professional at the same time. Under the cardigan, I styled the bone-colored tank and used the same necklace as in the second look. Shoes may feel optional for virtual interviews, but try wearing shoes during your next virtual interview and see how much more pulled together you feel. I added this easy slingback flat style by 42 Gold.
For situations where a tailored suited look is too many notches above the culture of the workplace where you are interviewing, a sweater will work. However, again, it is important to consider the type of sweater you are wearing on camera. Choose one with a bit more shape and structure over a relaxed sweater that may make you look like a mound with a head. Also, avoid black, particularly black shapeless sweaters during an interview. Black lacks definition on video and you risk looking like a blob in a look like this. I styled this surplice sweater from The Fold with plaid trousers from Wit & Wisdom and finished the look with a gold statement necklace and blush loafers.
If you are torn between a blazer and a cardigan, a blazer cardigan strikes the perfect balance. Of course, this solution only works in casual situations where a cardigan would be an appropriate choice in the first place. I styled this blazer cardigan from J. Crew with a simple scoop neck t-shirt and the same necklace as in the 4th look. Nobody will see your jeans and, while jeans won’t offer the same professional, polished feeling you can get from a pair of tailored pants, they are a much better choice over joggers or, worse, pajama bottoms. I finished the look with fun Birdies loafers.
Other Tips to Keep in Mind When Interviewing Virtually
If you haven’t checked out the tips in my post from last week about looking professional on Zoom, you can click here to review them.
There are always opportunities that can come from setbacks and while the employment fallout for women due to the pandemic has been crushing, it has brought to light the challenges working women face to be equal among men. It is my hope that as women rally back and return to work, the disparity among men and women are more carefully considered. We need to support women in the workforce, not penalize them for the reality they deal with and workplaces need to make off ramping a less desirable option when women are faced with focusing on family and work. If you are unemployed and struggling to return to the workplace, please let me know how I can help, even if it is just a simple and quick review of what you are planning to wear to your interview.