While the US continues to make significant progress in terms of gender equity, it likely comes as no surprise that it’s still falling short. In 2020, it ranked No. 53 in the World Economic Forum’s list of 154 countries based on gender equality, and this year it moved up the ranks to No. 30. However, the majority of improvements made relate to the realm of political empowerment; fewer economic advancements have been made and workplace gender gaps remain. In fact, in every state, women earn less than men.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious effect on women’s equality internationally. According to an in-depth study conducted by McKinsey & Company, women’s jobs are 1.8x more vulnerable to the crisis than men’s jobs. Today, women make up 39% of global employment, however they account for 54% of overall job losses. McKinsey cites “the burden of unpaid care, which is disproportionately carried by women” as a key reason for the virus’s great effect on the employment of women.

With the realities of the health crisis sweeping the nation and the current status and treatment of women in Afghanistan, which has come to light in recent weeks, Verbit’s team wanted to take a moment to shed light on what companies can do to support female employees this National Women’s Equality Day.

Company leaders can do more to combat this so-called first “female recession.” So many women are continuing to opt to take unpaid leave or are quitting their jobs due to the greater need to care for children and elderly relatives as the virus and its effects are far from over. While many states have reopened, women are likely to experience the financial burden of the pandemic’s last 18 months long after.

What is Women’s Equality Day?

In the US, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 to honor the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which resulted in women’s right to vote. The day honors the important work of women for democracy and to gain full rights and privileges, public, private, legal and institutional, as citizens of the US.

Every August, Women’s Equality Day is commemorated as a national day celebrating the importance of the women’s suffrage movement and the work involved to secure and expand equal rights and opportunities, which so many women are still fighting for in workplaces today.

What are companies doing?

For company leaders and HR teams to truly invest in their female employees they should begin through education and embedding opportunities for thought leadership into the company schedule and culture.

FORTUNE has a dedicated network and community, Most Powerful Women, which companies and female leaders can become members of to build a network with like-minded, forward-thinking professionals. FORTUNE hosts an annual MPW event every fall in Washington, D.C. to bring together the world’s most extraordinary preeminent women in business, including leaders in government, philanthropy, education and the arts. Attendees can learn from the success stories and practical advice of FORTUNE 500 leaders, female founders, and others, such as Laura Alber, CEO, Williams-Sonoma, Jaime Herrera Beutler, US House of Representatives, Muriel Bowser, Mayor, Washington D.C., Adena Friedman, President and CEO, NASDAQ and Poppy Harlow, Anchor, CNN, among others.

Companies can also look to purchase Global Women’s Empowerment Network (GWEN) programming as they start on their journey of becoming more informed and inclusive of women. PR agencies, including Edelman, utilize this network and its resources to offer helpful thought starters to business leaders across the organization to help and empower female employees.

Additionally, Salesforce has its own “Salesforce Women’s Network” (SWN). This equality group is “dedicated to amplifying the progress of women in every step of their journey.” Salesforce also hosts an annual Gender Equality summit, known as Trailblazing Women.

Crafting an inclusive environment for women

Unfortunately, making the workplace more inclusive and offering equal pay to all employees regardless of gender typically doesn’t happen overnight. Significant cultural changes must take place within a company to enact real change. These changes must be made at the top of the organization and be reflected by its leadership team. These values must be repeated to managers and in town halls, onboarding and training sessions whenever possible to instill a mentality that’s inclusive of all employees’ needs throughout the organization.

To authentically fuel inclusivity and equality across teams, employees, managers and workplaces, companies should consider their hiring practices, internal and external messaging and management styles.

While COVID-19 has unfortunately had recognizable effects on women’s career advancement, it has also shed a lot of light on the reality of female workers, family obligations and much more. The world has changed and the way most companies operate must now reflect these changes. With more individuals working remotely, COVID created an understanding of the flexibility required by today’s workers in order for them to thrive and attend to their personal responsibilities, which will then allow them to achieve their professional goals.

In the office, M-F, 9-5 scenarios are no longer deemed necessary by the majority of company leaders. Those who continue to require and set these standards are likely to see ripple effects in their workforces and challenges with employee retention.

For example, BDO launched ‘BDO Flex,’ a flexible work policy which “gives our people the power to collaborate with their teams to decide where and how they work based on their firm and client responsibilities… BDO is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Time spent working at a BDO office, client site or in a remote location can vary from week to week, team to team and engagement to engagement.” Other companies are following suit with more children learning remotely, as well as expanding their maternity leave policies to ensure female employees feel supported in their family goals as well as their professional ones.

Verbit has also instituted a flexible remote work policy and offers ‘short days’ to many parents who need to care for their children. The company is hiring a greater pool of women and forging communities within the organization to make sure female employees are heard and that their needs are met. Verbit is fully committed to the advancement of women in the workplace, encouraging them to forge their careers at Verbit with the flexibility and commitment needed to encourage their success and offer equity.

For more advice on crafting a more inclusive workplace, whether in-person or remote, contact Verbit. We’re happy to share our ideas!