Last year, women leaders left their companies at the highest rate in years (McKinsey). Many are aware that the pandemic forced a shift; but according to a 2022 report, women are also leaving to take advantage of more certain career opportunities.
This trend leaves us with a few questions: Have businesses taken note about what not to do? Are companies making an active shift to stop the talent drain? Are women finding that the grass is actually greener on the other side? Is all of the career shifting forcing companies into gender equality? And how do their male counterparts fit into this equation?
Let’s take a closer look at why women are company-hopping and how companies can use that understanding to champion female growth in their workspace.
3 Reasons Why Women Leaders Are Switching Jobs at a High Rate
Women everywhere are making moves to companies that offer a more inclusive workplace. (Note: It is not about just being passed over for a promotion.) Here are a few key reasons why women are leaving.
- Microaggressions That Undermine Female Authority
Microaggressions happen every day. These are seemingly small statements or questions that are borne out of stereotypes. And, according to research, 64% of women are still exposed to microaggressions in the workplace.
These types of statements and feelings make it seem as if the person being spoken to isn’t on the same professional footing as their colleagues, as if they can’t compete at the same level or their contributions aren’t as valuable. Why would a woman want to stay at a company where her value isn’t recognized?
- Insufficient Acknowledgment
In another 2019 McKinsey/Lean In study that looked at an employee’s first promotion into a management position, across 300+ companies, for every 100 men that were promoted, only 72 women were. And that number was even lower for women of color.
This is often referred to as the ‘Broken Rung in the Ladder of Success.’ When women in a company see their careers stall before they have a chance to really start them, they are going to look at other places where they can experience gender equality and have a fair start in career-building.
- Seeking a Diverse Equitable and Inclusive (DE&I) Environment
Many women recognize their value and will often put in the extra effort to building and strengthening their companies DE&I initiatives. However, unless these programs start at the top, they don’t always successfully support change. Do your DEI goals involve championing women for career pathways to success?
Keep Diversity Top of Mind
Acknowledging ‘the challenges women face in the workplace’ is a good start but a broad statement. There are so many factors that go into an individual’s work experience at a high level, but business leaders must get granular. Here are a few ways leaders can help.
Lead Gender Equality by Example
The ascension of women in the workplace is not an issue for women alone to face. They need c-suite allies who can look past gender and consider the individuality and distinct skillsets of their employees. To be slightly cliched, leaders need to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.
Set Diversity Goals
We set revenue goals for the year and view targets on the latest video we upload to social channels. When we really want to achieve something we set a goal and then do everything we can to reach it. Diversity shouldn’t be any different.
Diversity goals do two things:
- Keep the company accountable.
- Let employees know that there is a career growth pipeline and that they are part of it.
Represent Equality at All Levels
The key word here would be ‘visibility.’ For years men have had work role-models—other men in leadership roles who they see daily. This shows them that they could be in that position someday and it shows a path for achieving that goal.
Women do not have the same visibility and not having female role models in a leadership position can cause them to question whether their career aspirations are viable in the current role.
Broaden Diversity Perspectives
At some companies, this type of change will come quickly. In other places it’s going to be what’s known as “an uphill battle.” In all cases what will help will be a broader top-down diversity initiative. This could include education and awareness activities (for example, how many of your employees engage in microaggressions without being consciously aware of their harmful effects). It could also be cultural awareness celebrations and speakers. What’s important is that these initiatives are tailored to the specific culture (and needs) of the company.
Ways to Champion Women in the Workplace
Championing women at work is about more than passing out promotions. It’s about valuing their contribution from the start of their employment and ensuring that they have an equal spot on the corporate playing field. These six tips will put you on the path to doing just that.
- Let Women Speak Up—Listening. It’s such a simple, yet powerful leadership skill that many leaders don’t utilize. Too many leaders don’t amplify their female employee’s voices by giving them a platform to speak while also listening to what they have to say.
- Listening to women’s experiences to better understand their struggles which will give leaders insight into what changes a company may need to make.
- Listening to women’s ideas and solutions around the business needs of the day showing the entire company their value and importance.
- Negate the Likeability Penalty—Tradition has taught us that it’s acceptable for men to show confidence and assert themselves in the workplace. When a woman does it though…this is referred to as the “Likeability Penalty” and it’s quite simply a type of bias.
Men are applauded for their business drive and passion while women are seen as bossy and hysterical for taking the same actions. This has led to some women pulling back on their ambitions because they don’t want to be saddled with the stereotypes that accompany that drive.
- Recognize Women’s Achievements—Celebrate success broadly. When a female employee has a successful accomplishment, celebrate. And that needs to happen with more than a quick email that you send to her.
Maybe it’s a callout at the weekly department meeting or a notice on the break room board. Broad recognition puts women in business on equal footing as their male counterparts, it showcases across the company how integral women in the workplace are, and it has an aspirational level for other employees.
- Encourage Women and Boost Confidence—Because of the barriers and issues they have traditionally faced, women tend to hold back instead of going after the senior roles they want.
A frequently referenced HP benchmark report found that men will apply for a job they want when they meet just 60% of the position requirements. Women on the other hand won’t submit an application until they have met 100% of those requirements.
We need to encourage powerful women to not hold themselves back and to pursue all opportunities.
- Give Direct Developmental Feedback—If you’re in a position to provide employee reviews, make sure that they come with direct feedback with actionable steps that will help women develop their careers. If you’re on the receiving end of feedback and you don’t receive this type of input, ask for it.
Every employee needs direct developmental feedback so they know what’s expected of them to advance in their career.
- Be a Valuable Advocate and Advisor for Women—Women don’t just need advice and support, they need advocates. Until they can get in the room and fight for themselves, they need someone fighting for them.
The Future of Workplace Equality
Having a keen understanding of gender equality in the workplace will enable you to address the varying challenges of women in the workplace. This is an important tool for business growth. Champion women in the workplace by challenging what’s become a normalized inequality at work. Doing so will make you an advocate for empowerment. Are you ready to Be an Agent of Change?