By Lauren Hopkins, Marketing Coordinator, PowerUp Leadership
As much as we like to believe that as a society, we’ve come a long way in our efforts to create inclusive workplaces in which employees feel safe, satisfied, and supported, the struggles of the past few years have shown us that there is still a long way to go. How we go about changing our organizations is critical to increasing female representation in leadership now, and in generations to come.
Over the past two years of learning how to live and work through a global pandemic, women have realized that organizations are not doing enough to create safe and inclusive work environments that support employees’ well-being and value diversity, equity, and inclusion. Women are emerging into the post-pandemic world feeling underappreciated and burnt-out, but still ambitious and empowered to create change in their work lives, refusing to return to ‘business as usual.’ This drive to redefine our way of working has resulted in a major struggle to attract and retain female talent for many organizations. In fact, women are leaving companies at the highest rate in years to work for companies that are more supportive and share common values. At the director level, for every woman promoted to a new position in 2022, two women are leaving their company (McKinsey).
It’s no secret: women have faced increased bias in the workplace for years compared to their male counterparts, having their judgment questioned more frequently or being overlooked for opportunities for promotion, and they are fed up. Women have become clearer on their expectations and needs in the workplace and are leaving organizations that fail to accommodate these needs for those who can.
What can organizations do to attract and retain top female leaders?
After experiencing major life and work changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, women have realized this: the way we work does not have to be defined by someone else’s preferences and expectations that are assumed to satisfy every employee. There is no single way of working that will meet everyone’s diverse needs, so organizations must be flexible. This includes offering employees the choice between remote or on-site work, or a hybrid option, when possible. Many women prefer to work from home for different reasons: increased productivity with fewer interruptions and increased feelings of comfort and psychological safety, to name a few. Working remotely also limits the incidents of workplace discrimination and microaggression, but organizations cannot use offering remote work to avoid the work of creating an inclusive environment. Offering a choice of where they work will decrease the likelihood of women leaving the organization, but women must feel valued and appreciated in the organization, regardless of where they work.
Women, especially those who occupy an intersection bias related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other part of their identity, are more likely to support and lead diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives because of their personal experiences. Women do more to support DEI initiatives – an action that dramatically increases retention rates and workplace satisfaction. However, the time and effort women put into creating a workplace culture that promotes employee well-being often goes unrecognized and unrewarded. They are experiencing burnout at a higher rate than men, and their ambition is no longer enough to keep them going unappreciated in the workplace. The numbers make the recognition gap clear: women make up only one in four senior leaders, and women of colour make up only one in 20 (McKinsey). No wonder they are leaving organizations at increasing rates. Acknowledging these leaders and their efforts on an organization-wide level by providing resources and knowledgeable support ensures leaders of DEI initiatives feel appreciated and invested in. Bolstering DEI initiatives will not only help retain existing employees but will also make your organization more desirable to potential hires.
Organizations have become more demanding of managers over the past few years – there is pressure to support employees experiencing increased stress levels during unprecedented times and increased demand for DEI action. However, despite higher expectations of managers, organizations have not provided adequate training for managers to do what is expected of them. Acknowledge and reward for increased efforts is also lacking. Organizations need to enable managers to become better leaders through training and professional development opportunities. This way, managers can make employees feel more supported and create a more positive work environment overall.
An organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and employee satisfaction is only going to become more important to future generations of women. High-performing teams and individuals want to work for organizations that prioritize diversity and support DEI programs and initiatives. Advocacy for women in leadership roles and workplace DEI initiatives will help instill a vision of a promising future in the minds of women leaders now and in the future. Invest in your leaders, your DEI approach, and your organization to create positive change and reap the benefits. PowerUp Leadership is here to help, with customized coaching and training to support your leaders as they create more effective work environments, and expert HR support to help you navigate better policies and formal initiatives. Let’s help women develop the leadership and technical skills required to climb the corporate ladder and create a better workplace for everyone.