Home » From the ‘great break up’ to the ‘great makeup’

From the ‘great break up’ to the ‘great makeup’

by Narges Mohammadi

IWG’s Chief Commercial Officer Fatima Koning on why so many women are leaving senior leadership positions – and what firms can do about it

For women in the workplace, it’s becoming clear that the post-pandemic era offers good news and bad news. After suffering disproportionately high job losses at the height of Covid-19, data from the USA’s National Women’s Law Center shows that female employment is on the rise – and the UK’s Office for National Statistics tells a similar story.

Yet according to Lean In and McKinsey’s recent Women in the Workplace report, we’re in the midst of what its writers call a ‘great breakup’ – a phenomenon that’s causing female leaders to leave their jobs at the highest rate ever witnessed.

For individual women, the move from one role to another may represent progress – but for ambitious firms focused on growth, stemming this exodus of female talent is vital.

Setting the scene

Put simply, most companies can’t afford to lose female leadership. They don’t have enough of them as it is.

In 2021, I supported a Branded and WOMEN Inc. campaign that highlighted this issue in my home country, The Netherlands: a nation where there are more CEOs named Peter than women CEOs.

Lean In and McKinsey’s study points to the same problem. It found that only one in four C-suite head of a leadership is a woman, while just one in 20 is a woman of color. They put this down to the ‘broken rung’ women encounter when they first try to step up into management: a point in their careers where for every 100 men who are promoted, just 87 women move up the ladder.

 Fatima Koning is the Chief Commercial Officer at workspace provider IWG plc, based in Amsterdam.

Even worse, for every woman at the director level who is promoted, two are now choosing to leave their company. This matters not only on principle but because diversity in businesses drives success, promotes productivity, and helps to establish a healthy company culture.

As a female leader of diverse teams in 120 markets around the world, here’s what I’ve learned about how companies can turn the ‘great breakup’ into great makeup.

Women want work-life balance

First and foremost, firms need to consider the balance between the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors that affect women’s willingness to stay in their roles.

Key among pull factors is a clear, effective hybrid working policy. According to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economics professor and world-renowned expert on hybrid working, companies that offer this kind of flexibility can expect to see quit rates decline by as much as 35%.

Hybrid working is especially important for women, who still tend to shoulder more domestic responsibilities than men. In my own life, it makes a vital difference: I’m empowered to co-parent my daughter, take good care of myself, and progress in my career – priorities that would be far more difficult to manage successfully if I were traveling back and forth a central office every day.

By cutting down the need for commuting, companies give back valuable time to their people. With exhaustion and burnout rates highest among women, this is of particular significance for female employees – and the firms that need to keep them.

Post-pandemic, few of us want to return to ‘business as usual’, but it seems women are especially reluctant. The Women in the Workplace report makes clear that young women are highly ambitious, but not prepared to sacrifice their wellbeing to advance at work. IWG’s data paints a similar picture, with 72% of people saying they’d forgo a 10% pay rise in favor of retaining hybrid working.

What does this mean for companies? That hybrid working is important for existing women employees and for attracting fresh female talent. Without it, firms will struggle to recruit or retain women at all levels, seriously damaging diversity and hampering their future success.

Consider company culture

When it comes to ‘push’ factors, company culture can be a major influence on women’s decisions to abandon leadership roles.

According to Women in the Workplace, many women experience microaggressions that undermine their authority. The report found that colleagues are more likely to question a female leader’s judgment or suitability for her role, and also stated that women reported personal characteristics, such as being a parent, have played a part in them being passed over for promotion.

In other words, the presence of women in an organization – even at senior levels – doesn’t mean the firm has achieved fairness. Even now, it seems female colleagues are more likely to undertake unpaid, undervalued office ‘housework’ such as watering plants, tidying communal areas, and ensuring the kitchen is stocked. To retain female talent, companies need to consider the gap that might exist between how equal culture looks and how equal it feels.

Investing in women via leadership schemes and ensuring fair recruitment for promotions is key. Throughout my time at IWG, I’ve benefited hugely from the mentorship of Mark Dixon, who’s always been a strong advocate and ally.

With my teams, I regularly challenge the cultural norms and social conditioning that can hold women back. Perfectionism is a perfect example: as women, we’re raised to try and get everything right, while men feel freer to make mistakes. I tell all my people that being 70% sure about something is usually sure enough! Adopting that ‘can do’ approach enables innovation across the board, but it’s especially liberating for women.

Firms that consider not just what people, but what women need in terms of motivation, encouragement, and confidence-building, will find it a worthwhile effort.

Making hybrid work

Adopting hybrid working is a positive step towards improved recruitment and retention of female talent. However, it’s not a panacea: firms need to create their hybrid policies with care, offer adequate training for hybrid leaders and continuously monitor how well the model is working.

It’s also worth noting that hybrid working is more likely to help level the playing field if male and female employees are encouraged to take up the offer equally.

Allowing the development of ‘two tier’ teams, where some (likely male) employees spend more time at the company HQ than their female colleagues, could accidentally entrench, rather than ease, unfairness.

This is one reason to consider the provision of local, flexible workspace for employees: professional environments close to home where they can work without domestic distractions, and without the burden of a long commute. Major corporations such as Standard Chartered Bank and NTT have now partnered with IWG to do just that, giving their people access to 3,500 locations around the world.

Supporting success

Finally, it’s important to remember that while Lean In and McKinsey’s report shows women are leaving senior leadership roles, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re leaving the workplace altogether.

Rather, the study highlights the very real danger that, more readily than ever, women will vote with their feet when they’re unhappy. This is another double whammy for firms that are reluctant to embrace the hybrid model or create cultures that meet women’s needs: not only will they lose top talent – it may well go to their competitors.

In 2022, companies simply cannot afford to be without diverse, inclusive leadership. Inequality of opportunity reduces productivity, stifles creativity, and damages innovation.

Right now, women are as ambitious as ever – but their drive extends to rejecting working cultures that don’t serve them. My experience, both as a mentee and a leader, shows that when employers support women’s success, everyone wins.

Source: Independent

You may also like

Leave a Comment

All rights of this website belongs to Jahan Banou News agency. There are no obstacles in re-publishing the contents of this platform by mentioning the reference.