Discussions around the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the workplace have placed much of the focus on the Great Resignation. However, many organizations may be missing the fact that in 2021 alone, 10.5% of women business leaders have left their companies and are continuing to leave their positions for greener pastures.
In addition to the barriers women already face when attempting to climb the corporate ladder, recent years have only added to the amount of work and challenges on their plates, leading to increased burnout.
While the pandemic has led to an increase in the amount of flexibility offered to employees in the workplace, more steps need to be taken to ensure that women leaders in particular are supported with consideration to their needs and future goals. Below, 15 Forbes Business Council members each share one recommendation for executives to better support women leaders in the workplace.
1. Offer More Flexibility
Women need and are demanding more flexibility. The pandemic proved that working from home is a more humane solution, particularly for women who are juggling work and family. Female leaders who have risen to the C-suite no longer need the confines of a traditional office. Companies looking to improve diversity in executive roles must embrace this change to attract and retain top female talent. – Meighan Newhouse, Inspirant Group
2. Provide Equal Opportunities
Even if female employees are experiencing challenges, offer equal opportunities. If they are trusted and given more obligations, they will usually step up to the challenge. They want to feel that you have confidence in them. Encourage women in pursuing more leadership roles so that you can see their potential. – Lane Kawaoka, SimplePassiveCashflow.com
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3. Advocate For More Promotions
As leaders, our job is to create environments where female voices are amplified. This starts at the top by employing more women in high-level positions, which in turn generates diversity and support systems that will attract even more women to the table. As an individual, I focus on the importance of sponsorship, as I’ve had leaders, many male, in my life support me by advocating that I be promoted. – Jaime Leverton, Hut 8 Mining
4. Take Action After Gathering Data
Ask women why they are leaving. Don’t try to fix the problem with no insights and no data from the people making that decision in the first place. If you start by understanding the problem, you can then arrive at a logical solution. – Cailin Rogers, Alta Via Communications, LLC
5. Truly Respond To Their Needs
If we want to retain our corporate leaders, men or women, we need to be genuinely receptive to their needs. Being receptive means asking meaningful questions, lowering your “Teflon magic shield,” looking them in the eye and listening carefully. If we listen and respond earnestly to their needs, they will stay and the company and the employee will flourish. – David Greenblatt, Albert Scott
6. Give Access To Growth And Development Opportunities
To better support women leaders, executives can offer opportunities for development and growth. Try providing access to executive education programs or networking events as well as mentorship relationships—all of which will allow female employees access to opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have! Showing that you’re invested not only financially but also emotionally ensures workers feel welcomed. – Ashley Saye, Daily Rays Inc.
7. Provide Space For The Full Spectrum Of Their Excellence
Women leaders are some of the most exceptional humans on the planet, balancing family, relationships and self-care many times in ways their male peers are not expected to. Often, working in male-dominated fields has made them go through great pains to water down their excellence. Simply put, women in leadership need more space. Provide space for their ideas, their families and for the self-care they need to win. – Kathryn Porritt, Icons Incorporated
8. Provide Inclusive Benefits
Better support shown toward women leaders includes inclusive and diverse benefit and healthcare packages. Does your company provide medical coverage that covers more than just the basics for women who become pregnant? Does your company have private space for women who are breastfeeding or pumping? Does your company provide medical coverage that includes gender-affirming care for transitioning employees? If not, it should! – Dana Neiger, HIVE Talent Acquisition Firm
9. Reduce Pay Inequities
For one, we must pay women leaders equally. There is no reason at all why women should be paid less than men. And while I’m glad to see initiatives like salary transparency laws gaining traction around the US, coming from Latvia–a country where pay transparency has been mandatory since 2019–I don’t think such laws alone can solve the problem. It’s crucial to continue to raise this issue. – Artis Rozentals, DeskTime
10. Address Disrespect In The Workplace
Many assume female leaders are unhappy because of sexism, sexual harassment or a lack of flexibility due to balancing child care. Yes, these are common situations, but they do not apply to everyone. Women leaders need to be listened to and respected. It is way more common that women are talked down to or overlooked—and not just by men! If this disrespect is not addressed as soon as possible, then they will walk. – Sabrina Chevannes, Complex Creative
11. Leverage Employee Relations Groups
Many companies have done an excellent job of creating employee relations groups for employees to learn about and have access to resources they may not have known were available to them. It can help them better understand benefits, provide them with a mentor and help with personal development. The more companies leverage these programs, the more they can help with overall retention. – Sherry Taylor, Office Depot
12. Give Them Seats At The Table
Many women leaders are leaving because they don’t get promoted past manager or director. They may be thinking, “Why should I work this hard and not get a seat at the table where decisions are made?” or “Why stay when a man at the same level makes 15% more?” Women don’t need mentors; they need advocates who will sponsor their careers and fight for them. – Eldar Itlyashev, Kavkaz Express LLC
13. Reset Expectations Around What Work Looks Like
Step outside of the traditional expectations of executive roles and get creative in bringing more joy, purpose and fulfillment to your talent. Consider evolving toward a three- or four-day workweek, offering unlimited vacation time or delivering prepared meals a few days a week to alleviate home-related meal planning stress. This may enhance their work experience, helping them define and live their purpose through their work. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
14. Create A Culture That Encourages Honesty Around Needs
There is still significant gender bias in the workplace to overcome. This requires the responsible employer to go above and beyond to provide an environment in which female leaders can thrive and succeed. Listening is the obvious answer, but I’d also suggest creating a culture where it is encouraged to talk about what each employee needs to be successful in their role at all levels. – Andrew Dunbar
15. Trust What They Bring To The Workplace
I would recommend trusting the significance that women can bring to the workplace and ensuring their voices are being heard. Women can offer a unique perspective, lending to more creative problem-solving and consideration of the different levels of what it means to be human. More often, these strengths are needed for team cohesion, true client and customer satisfaction and well-rounded business growth. – Melanie Ammerman, VaVa Virtual Assistants
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