How women in the workplace display outstanding leadership influence during disruption

Women in the Workplace

Women in the workplace display outstanding leadership influence during disruption.

The Women in the Workplace 2021 report released recently by McKinsey & Co. tells the story of the impact of the pandemic on women in the workplace.

We’re burnt out – sometimes more so than men – and we’re still being held back from promotion by the  “broken rung”. If you’re a woman, that won’t come as any surprise. Yet despite this, the research shows it is women who are displaying stronger leadership.

The report says, “Women leaders are meeting the moment and taking on the extra work that comes with this. Compared to men at the same level, women managers are taking more action to support their teams, from helping employees manage their workloads to checking in regularly on their overall well-being.”

Traditionally, men were regarded as being better at taking risks, yet during the pandemic, experts said “The qualities that have tended to be associated with male leaders in the past were exhibited far more strongly by women during the pandemic.”

In addition, research regularly shows women excel in being compassionate and empathetic, and in working out compromises. This is supported by the findings in the Women in the Workplace 2021 report.

Importance of the work

In the current climate, it’s the soft skills we need to call on to keep people together.

Empathy is a force for productivity, life-work integration, and positive work experiences.”

“When managers support employee well-being and companies prioritize DEI, [diversity, equity and inclusion] employees are happier, less burned out, and less likely to consider leaving their jobs.”

Human skills help increase productivity, reduce burnout, increase employee engagement, and boost retention. It’s easy to imagine the business benefits and ROI of the soft skills.

Our women are consistently working to promote employee wellbeing, so why aren’t we recognising the work our female leaders are doing?

Losing women faster than men

McKinsey & Co report one in three women in the workplace say that they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year, and four in ten have considered leaving their company or switching jobs. The figures are similar here in Australia. Those figures are higher than those of men.

Can your business afford to lose the people it has relied on during the crisis to keep it afloat?

What can your company do to stem the loss of women leaders?

How about some recognition? The Women in the Workplace 2021 shows over 70% of companies say employee work to support well-being and DEI is critical but only around 25% that say this work receives formal recognition. This set of skills deserves an equal place in performance assessments.

What about flexibility in terms of hours, location and even in work management? Working 9 - 5 doesn’t happen anymore. Listening to and talking with an employee on a personal level is draining and time consuming, and often done out of hours. The human side of leadership can be exhausting.

What about giving them meaning in their work? Find ways to build their roles and careers around their passions. Give them a reason to stay with your company – give them a real future.

This article isn’t a piece of feminist fanfare. I’m looking at the situation from a business viewpoint. The skills women leaders have shown during the pandemic have paid off for businesses. They have long term benefits in terms of sustainability, employee wellbeing and productivity. Can you afford the financial cost of losing this talent?

There is much talk about “The Great Resignation”, instead I ask you to think about strategies for “The Great Reigniting”, realigning work conditions and leadership to the needs of your people. I’d love to know what you’re doing to support, realign and reignite your people.

Please share your story in the comments below.

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Caroline Kennedy, author of Lead Beyond 2030: The Nine Skills You Need to Intensify Your Leadership Impact, is an accomplished, award-winning CEO and global thought leader on business and leadership. She is a highly sought-after mentor and coach to top global executives. A respected keynote speaker and author, Caroline’s methods are neuroscience-based to achieve rapid development and growth.


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