Repercussions of pandemic poised to set women in leadership back decades

Gender parity in the C-Suite is at greater risk than ever before as executive women continue to face mounting pressures and responsibilities

Insights from more than 300 Chief members — C- and VP-level women at the top of their companies and industries — paint a candid and comprehensive view of the pandemic-caused pressures and their impact on the business community.

Collectively, their voices highlight the visible and invisible demands that executive women face as they simultaneously lead companies through crisis and juggle personal obligations.

While there has been heavy emphasis and reporting on the pandemic pushing women out of the workforce entirely, this survey reveals the impact of these dynamics on the women who remain. The data captures an increase in workload and an unstated expectation of women leaders to be able to better manage other parents and caregivers on their teams by default because of their gender.
As the pandemic drives women out of the workforce at staggering rates, the women who remain continue to face increasing pressures and challenges:
say the pandemic is knocking them off their professional career course
are planning on leaving their companies sooner due to the company's response to the pandemic

  • The loss of millions of women from the workforce has a cascading effect on the women who remain —  and poses a significant threat to gender parity in the workplace
  • Women who remain in the workplace are taking on an overwhelming amount of extra responsibilities on top of their already full plates, putting them at increased risk of burnout 
  • A strong community support system is critical in combating the mounting pressures and responsibilities senior women leaders are facing 
  • Organizations ought to recognize these challenges and provide women executives with the support they need to stay at the top

“We hope that companies see the herculean efforts being made by these women,” said Chief co-founder Lindsay Kaplan. “We also hope that the new administration addresses these issues in a structural way by placing a heavy emphasis on women’s issues, especially pertaining to the workplace, childcare, equal pay, and healthcare.” 
Women are shouldering more responsibility:
Regardless of their personal situation, most women in leadership positions are shouldering more professional responsibilities and taking on the invisible work of caring for other employees.
took on more professional responsibilities since the start of the pandemic
shared that managing others while dealing with their own challenges has been their biggest hurdle
feel an obligation to speak up for other women during these times

Stress and isolation have increased for almost everyone, but especially BIPOC women:

  • It is already stressful and lonely at the top — and even more so during COVID-19. 68% reported being more or much more isolated and lonely, while 77% reported being more or much more stressed
  • 25% are the only woman among their peers at the company in leadership positions
  • BIPOC executive women were more likely to say they were much more stressed" than their white counterparts (49% vs 37%)


Vulnerability and authenticity have also increased:

Women are more honest about stress and social issues in the workplace than ever before.

Since the pandemic started, members feel they are:

When women are leading companies, they feel that they're doing enough to help support employees:
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the women surveyed believe their companies did enough to help support employees.
feel that their companies have done enough
feel positively towards their company because of the pandemic (23% feel negatively)

Chief is the future of women in the workplace. Created to drive more women into positions of power and keep them there, Chief is a private network designed specifically for senior women leaders — rising VP level through CEO — to strengthen their experience in the C-suite, cross-pollinate power across industries, and effect change from the top-down. Co-founders Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan launched Chief in 2019, and it has since grown to over 3,500 of the most formidable senior leaders in the United States, representing over 2,000 companies. Chief is headquartered in New York City, with locations in Los Angeles and Chicago, and currently accepting members to Boston and San Francisco, as well its nationwide waitlist. Learn more at