As American workers have reassessed their lives and careers en masse in recent years, they have ushered in major workforce trends — from the “great resignation” to the “great reinvention” to “the silent surrender”.
Now there is one more to add to this list. In what some are calling the “Great Disruption”, women leaders – already underrepresented in business – are changing jobs at the fastest rate in years, far more than men in leadership. They are giving up their companies for companies offering more opportunity, flexibility and commitment to inclusion.
That’s according to the 2022 Women in the Workplace report from LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company — the eighth annual iteration of the largest study on the status of women in American business. This year’s study collected information from more than 330 companies, surveyed more than 40,000 workers and conducted interviews with women of diverse identities.
Rachel Thomas, CEO of LeanIn.Org, says that while women leaders are just as ambitious as men, they are leaving their companies – for a number of reasons – at “the highest rate we’ve ever seen”. For every woman at director level who gets a promotion, two female directors voluntarily leave their organization, she says morning edition.
“We really think this could be catastrophic for businesses,” she says. “We already know that women are underrepresented in leadership positions, and now companies are starting to lose what few female leaders they have.”
The results describe a pipeline issue
For its eighth consecutive year, the study finds that the “broken rung” from entry level to leadership has yet to be repaired: for every 100 men promoted from entry-level leadership positions, only 87 women (and only 82 women of color) are promoted.
This means that there are fewer women to rise through the ranks to management and fewer women to promote at all levels. Only one in four C-suite leaders are women, and only one in 20 are women of color.
Companies have tried to move forward in recent years, Thomas says, but it has been slow. In the meantime, women face many barriers to career advancement, ranging from demeaning microaggressions – female leaders are twice as likely as men at their level to be mistaken for someone younger, for example – to a lack of recognition of their work, particularly related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Thomas says that compared to men, female managers are more likely to invest time and energy in checking on the workload and well-being of their employees, taking on mentorship roles and working on development initiatives. diversity outside of their main job.
“Women and men leaders have the same business expectations of them in terms of delivering results, generating revenue,” she explains. “And then women leaders really become great people managers and champions of diversity, equity and inclusion. And we know that employee companies prioritize that work, they want to see more of this to be done. But interestingly enough, this important work is generally unrecognized and unrewarded in most organizations.”
While 93% of companies consider business goals in manager performance reviews, less than 40% do so for factors such as team morale and progress on DEI goals, according to the survey.
And when women are promoted, they struggle to find work-life balance, Thomas says, likely because many work “a double shift at home.” Internal research shows that women are much more likely to do most or all of the household chores in their partnership, and Thomas says that as women and men age, older men begin to do less household chores. .
“So as you get older as a woman, you do more at home and, shall we say, you do more at work,” she says.
Overall, women with traditionally marginalized identities continue to have worse work experiences. For example: Latinas and black women are less likely than women of other races and ethnicities to report that their manager supports their career development, while LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities are much more likely than women in general to “hear critical comments about their behavior and appearance”, reveals the survey.
Today, many women are looking elsewhere for that flexibility, employee support, and commitment to DEI.
“Women leaders effectively say, ‘We’ve had enough,’” says Thomas. ” ‘We are ambitious. We want successful careers. But we will look for organizations that offer the work culture that we want too.’ ”
Here’s what businesses can do
This isn’t just a problem for women looking to move into leadership positions now – it can also mean that companies will struggle to attract and retain female leaders in the future. The factors and priorities that lead women leaders to leave their companies today are even more valuable for the next generation, the report points out.
“Young women are looking at female leaders in their business and it doesn’t look good,” Thomas says. “Two-thirds of women under 30 say they would be more interested in advancing if they saw leaders with the work-life balance they want.”
There are steps companies can take to advance, retain and recruit more female leaders.
The survey highlights the important role managers play in promoting and supporting employees, and the need to bridge the gap between what is expected of managers and how they are actually trained and rewarded. Only about half of women say their manager regularly encourages respectful behavior within the team, and less than half say their manager is interested in their career and helps them manage their workload.
Thomas says it could look like giving managers more training and support, and also factoring employee morale, retention and well-being into manager performance reviews.
“And then what will happen…is women managers and women leaders who are more likely to invest in wellness and more likely to champion diversity, equity, inclusion, they will actually be rewarded for this hard work that they what I’m doing, which will probably lead to more advancement and more money for these…women leaders,” she adds. “So that’s going to trigger, I think, a virtuous circle in organizations.”
Another key area is flexible working. The survey found that a large majority of employees prefer remote or hybrid working, and more than 70% of companies surveyed say offering these options has helped them attract and retain more employees from of underrepresented groups.
Only one woman in 10 wants to work mainly on site. The report says it’s not just because of things like childcare needs or commuting time: Women who work in the office are almost 1.5 times more likely to experience microaggressions. degrading and altered than when working primarily remotely.
“So someone says you look crazy or you need to smile more, or hears co-workers commenting on your appearance in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable,” says Thomas. “All women, but especially women of color and women with disabilities, experience this less when they’re out of the office.”
She says that on the one hand, it’s a good thing because it shows that women are finding ways to have a better day-to-day work experience in their organization — but on the other hand, it’s an workplace accusation. That’s why one of the big takeaways from this year is that organizations need to make sure remote and hybrid working can work for everyone. And employers should invest in DEI efforts to make women feel respected and valued, whether they work in a cubicle or at their kitchen table.
The report highlights some programs and policies commonly found at companies with higher representation of women and women of color, based on an analysis of HR and DEI best practices.
These include employee benefits – such as personal leave for mental health care, miscarriage support and extended leave for parents and carers – as well as formal career development opportunities, a solid training for managers and data tracking practices related to diversity and representation.
“We know that women leaders – and all women and indeed, employees in general – are really starting to place a lot of importance on working for an organization that values and invests in diversity, equity and inclusion. and is committed to making sure that our employees’ everyday experiences make them feel good, that there is a real sense of well-being in their organization,” says Thomas. “So from 10,000 feet, that’s what organizations need to focus on.”
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