Throughout the last year-and-a-half women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For various reasons, women faced unique setbacks in workplace participation, including a general lack of childcare support to the shutdown of industries in which women play outsized roles, including hospitality and tourism.

And while the economic recovery continues, some larger questions remain: What kind of workplaces are women returning to? What can they do to feel more confident financially?

Recently, a group of TD executives came together for a Women in Leadership event to discuss what lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic’s impact on women, as well as to provide insight on what’s next.

Here are five lessons we took away from the event.

The panelists:

Headshot of Beata Caranci on a gold circle.
Beata Caranci
Chief Economist, TD Bank
Headshot of Alec Morley on a gold circle.
Alec Morley
Senior Vice President of Canadian Business Banking and Executive Leader for TD Women in Enterprise
Headshot of Ingred Macintosh on a gold circle.
Ingrid Macintosh
Vice President, TD Wealth and Executive Sponsor, TD Wealth for Women

Courage and creativity is key

“There are so many stories of courage,” said Alec Morley, Senior Vice President of Canadian Business Banking and Executive Leader for TD Women in Enterprise. He shared the story of two music school teachers who were forced to shut down in-person attendance. Rather than close up shop, they quickly set their students up for virtual learning, a tough move that helped keep their business afloat. Morley emphasized the need for businesses to be nimble to be successful and applauded the many female leaders who quickly pivoted to more sustainable business models. “The challenges of the pandemic are also in some cases opportunities,” he said.

Embrace flexibility

Ingrid Macintosh, Vice President, TD Wealth and Executive Sponsor of TD Wealth for Women, emphasized the need for less rigid work environments. She said that as we rebuild our workplaces, it’s vital that we evaluate what we’ve learned during the pandemic, namely, that businesses can accommodate a variety of lifestyles and still be effective. Macintosh said flexibility is often key to a woman’s success, especially when facing challenges such as a lack of childcare support. She said to make sure we’re evaluating women fairly and “taking some of the best lessons from COVID-19 as we go forward when we look at what workplaces should truly look like.”

Build confidence and engage

Macintosh also highlighted the need for women to look at their finances sooner rather than later. “Women feel less confident about money despite being highly educated and highly proficient in their areas of expertise,” she said. According to one Strategy Marketing report, over 70% of women say they are unhappy with the financial services industry.1 One reason for this, said Macintosh, may be that advisors tend to naturally engage with the male partner, excluding women from the conversation. “Women can be non-confrontational and not want to ask questions. We value harmony, so if we’re not feeling strong in that conversation around money, we may be abdicating that responsibility for the partner,” she said.

Brace for volatility but focus on the long-term

Some women may be feeling nervous after absorbing a steady stream of pandemic-driven headlines, but Macintosh assured us that the environment is still strong for long-term investing. “There is one narrative that says women investors are risk-averse, it’s actually not true,” said Macintosh “They tend to be more risk-aware.” Women are also goal-based investors, she says, and ask questions such as will I be able to support my family? Will I be able to support my vision for my future self? She suggests women may choose to brace for volatility in the short term but understand and focus on the long term: “Make sure you’re not letting volatility keep you off your course.”

Seize this moment

“We’ve gone into some very difficult periods last year and we’re moving into better times,” said TD Chief Economist Beata Caranci. Last year gave us the opportunity to see where the system doesn’t work, and where it was detrimental for women, especially working mothers. But Caranci encouraged us to reinvent our social networks and lean into progressive policies that have a clear positive impact on the economy. “Let’s make sure we move into a better system as we go forward,” she said.