Women in the workplace are voting with their feet - it's time to better support their careersMar 08, 2023
We’re in an incredible moment where women represent a record of 29% of members in congress and the highest number of women CEOs running Fortune 500 companies.
But for women in the workforce, many like myself balancing our professional aspirations with being working parents, it doesn’t always feel like everything is looking up.
In fact, Fortune reported that between 2020 and 2022 we lost over 1 Million women in the workforce, and while Covid accounted for much of this at the onset, the trend has continued even as things have stabilized. As McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org dug into this deeper in the 2022 Women in the Workplace Report, two reasons stood out:
- A lack of visibility to their work
- A lack of career advancement opportunities
Women are finding they face stronger headwinds than their male counterparts when it comes to reaching that next level in their careers, being tapped for opportunities, and being seen as leaders, driving many to the choice of changing roles of leaving the traditional workforce.
The good news is, these are things companies can do something about if managers and leaders are more intentional with their employees; and two examples of things they can do right away include:
- Acting as a sponsor, advocating for them when they are not in the room. This means bringing up their name in conversations, suggesting them for projects, and amplifying their ideas. This means saying something like "Hey Lia, I was sharing the great work you did landing the XYZ project with our leadership team this morning. They were really excited to learn more and would love you to present at their meeting next week." This shows that my manager is looking out for me and my career, recognizing my great work, even when I'm not present.
- Understanding the career goals of the women on your team and continually working to put them in situations that help them get there. This requires having conversations about careers and goals, and the bigger aspirations your team members have, and proactively finding opportunities to help them move in that direction. For example, if I say to my manager that I want to be a manager one day, you are looking for opportunities where I can mentor or coach people as I build up my skills, and when it's time to hire, you tap me for that manager role.
Now, these actions of course benefit everyone on your teams and are things leaders should be doing with all of their employees. However, with the biases and double standards women face of being told to "keep your head down" or "not brag or show off" when it comes to talking about their work, it makes it even more important to be proactive about fixing these gaps.
Women also often face pushback when they do speak up, when they raise their hand for opportunities - being told it's not time yet, or they're coming across as bossy, making it even more to collectively be aware of these issues so we can fix them.
The last thing (not in general, but in this article ;) ) to mention that supports women is flexibility - for working parents, this is a non negotiable. The pandemic opened our eyes to a world where you didn’t have to hide your identity as a parent or it be treated as you weren’t giving 100% to your job, and women aren’t going to let go of that.
Flexibility is another policy that benefits everyone, and not only women are eager to take advantage of it. If fact, as discussed in a recent NY Times article "Fathers Gained Family Time in the Pandemic. Many Don’t Want to Give It Back," flexibility afforded to everyone helps to share the responsibility of domestic work and caretaking that traditionally has fallen more to women.
To dive deeper, check out my interview on KTVU Fox 2 Bay Area where I share more ways we can support women in the workplace:
Or check out my podcast episode on the topic where delve further into some of the findings shared by McKinsey and offer more strategies for supporting our women:
This Women' History Month, make a commitment to bringing more visibility to the work of the women on your teams, listen to their career career goals and forge opportunities to getting there, and promote flexible work policies. These things will ensure that women not only stay in the workforce but can thrive and lead.
And if you are ready to proactively support the women on your team and demonstrate your commitment to investing in them, my Accelerate Group coaching program is for you. Using a cohort-based model to build community and strengthen their networks, we will dive into 8 areas where women often get stuck in their careers, reframing limiting beliefs, and coming away with actionable strategies to bring more visibility to their work, take bolder risks, overcome setbacks and failures with ease and beyond.
To learn more about the program, reach out at [email protected]