2021 was the year of “The Great Resignation” – a year when workers quit their jobs in historic numbers. While much has been written about the phenomenon, the truth is that when we speak of the Great Resignation, we are really speaking of the resignation of women.
During the pandemic, women left the labor force at twice the rate men did. Their participation in the paid labor force has fallen to its lowest in more than 30 years, and approximately one-third of mothers in the workforce scaled back or left their jobs since March 2020.
As women continue to exit the workforce, the question at the tip of their tongue is: Does my workplace work for me? For many, the answer is a resounding no.
While many organizations have attempted to redress the inequities women face by introducing new policies, much more needs to be done. Let’s discuss a few positive ways in which organizations can retain women leaders.
Organizations should prioritize work-life balance for women.
In today’s dynamic world, a healthy work-life balance is key to ensuring success both personally and professionally. When coronavirus struck, and the global workforce began working from home, managing work along with personal commitments posed a challenge for many. Organizations swiftly introduced measures to ensure employees had adequate flexibility, resources, and options to balance the disparate aspects of their lives. However, there is still a gap that needs to be addressed regarding women.
As per Deloitte’s ‘Women@Work 2022: A Global Outlook’ report, more than half of women surveyed want to leave their employer in the next two years. According to the survey, about 56% say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, with almost half of the respondents feeling burned out. Organizations need to adopt robust measures to ensure a conducive environment for women to thrive.
Measures organizations can take to improve work-life balance for women.
1. Understand employee sentiment.
Business needs often drive organizational decision-making. However, listening and acting on employee sentiment is invaluable to creating a workplace where employees can thrive; such methods include monthly surveys, one-to-one sessions, and weekly webinars. While effective, these should not be a one-and-done initiative. Instead, employers should monitor the emotional health of their employees and strive to cultivate a culture built around mutual respect and compassion.
Besides building deeper connections and motivating employees to excel, this will create a culture where employees feel safe to speak up. Microaggressions are more prevalent in the workplace than commonly known. 68% of Americans say it is a serious problem – and that is just the start. Women leaders are more likely to face microaggressions than their male counterparts – such as being interrupted when speaking or having their judgment questioned – especially women of color, who are far more likely than white women to experience disrespectful and othering behavior, such as backhanded compliments. There is a direct connection between microaggressions and bias, and the reality is women who experience them are likely to feel burnout.
The “like it or lump it” philosophy of the pre-Covid workplace, where workers simply had to put up with working in an unsatisfactory work environment, is over. Workers have added a third option: leave it. And they mean it.
2. Adapt policies with changing times.
During the pandemic, organizations adapted policies to suit a work-from-home environment. Similarly, adapting policies to promote work-life balance is critical. These may include flexibility in work shifts, rewarding quality of work instead of logged-in time, and a leave policy that encourages employees to take time off.
It has long been known that women carry an unequal share of the burden when it comes to childcare and housekeeping. During the pandemic, when mothers had to juggle these responsibilities as well as complete their work tasks, many of them reached the end of their tether. Many women also worry that their work performance is negatively judged because of their caregiving responsibilities.
It is way past time that organizations shift these deeply rooted norms by recognizing that an hour holding a child’s hand in the pediatrician’s office is just as important as an hour in the boardroom because then men will be more likely to do it. Companies that offer a gender-neutral mandatory paid paternal leave policy are another action businesses can take to combat the motherhood penalty and normalize caregiving for all. Providing equal career opportunities, rewarding excellence based on performance, and implementing gender-agnostic salary structures are building blocks to a fair workplace. This will help women find balance in their career and personal lives and inspire a culture of equality and fairness.
3. Provide assistance beyond work.
Women don multiple hats at the workplace and at home. Organizations can help them by providing relevant support and training beyond work. This may include areas such as financial support or mental and physical wellbeing counseling.
Organizations that support employees with childcare are not only helping provide a better work-life balance, but they’re also keeping them from walking out the door. Investing in employees by offering flexible hours, child care subsidies, and other benefits to help working mothers will result in a happier, more productive workforce — which employees want to stay and be a part of.
Child support, coupled with work-related training, can help improve women’s work-life balance and empower women leaders.
The Future of Work.
“The Great Resignation” is happening, and it’s not going away any time soon.
Businesses have seen and are continuing to see many workers leave their jobs, particularly women. To retain and keep talented employees, organizations must pivot into new ways of flexible working, creating new benefits and opportunities, embracing diversity, and fostering environments of inclusion where all employees feel heard and valued – rather than burned out and exhausted.
If you’re not focusing on it, someone else will, and your best employees will leave to work there.