What is driving women leaders away at an unprecedented rate? The “Great Breakup” is forcing us to take a closer look at how both men and women can serve as allies to help women achieve satisfaction in their roles.
What is driving women away?
The 2022 Women in the Workplace report published by McKinsey & Company (in partnership with LeanIn.Org) highlights the obstacles women face in their careers despite their ambition to advance. Let’s break some of these down:
Women are susceptible to microaggressions that can make career advancement unnecessarily arduous. For example, they are twice as likely as men to be mistaken for someone more junior, and 37% of women leaders have had a coworker get credit for their idea, compared to 27% of male leaders. Women also face being interrupted or spoken over in meetings, and casual misogyny, but can be viewed as difficult when they call out this behavior.
A lack of flexibility
A majority of women prefer remote work because of the flexibility it yields (in general, employees who can choose their work conditions are less likely to leave their organization), especially working mothers and women with disabilities. However, when women spend less time in the office, it can lead to their being excluded from work-related social events and, in turn, negatively impact career advancement opportunities.
Uncompensated emotional labor
Amid the demand for better DEI initiatives and employee well-being, women have been doing most of the heavy lifting — implementing inclusion practices, checking in with employees’ mental health, and mentoring new talent, for example. And more often than not, these tasks are not part of their job descriptions (unpaid emotional labor).
Lack of constructive feedback
Employees need specific and thoughtful feedback from managers to feel supported, and women are no exception, but research shows that women receive significantly less feedback than their male peers. Further, evidence suggests a difference in feedback messaging for women versus men; for example, while men are encouraged to assert themselves, women are encouraged to get along. A lack of actionable, constructive feedback for women can stifle their growth.
Men can take actionable steps toward mitigating these obstacles for women in their organizations and act as allies for their female colleagues.
What is allyship?
Allyship, as defined by Oxford Languages, is the “active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it.” The word “active” is very important in this definition because solely expressing support for a cause is not allyship.
How can men be allies for women?
Allyship requires becoming educated on workplace inequality. For example, only one in every four C-suite leaders is a woman, and only one in twenty C-suite leaders is a woman of color. Being informed on the data is critical for understanding the need for change, and can begin with staying current on relevant, informative resources on social media and reading reports available at https://womenintheworkplace.com/.
Amplify women’s voices
As mentioned above, female leaders are 10% more likely than their male counterparts to have a coworker get credit for their idea. In meetings, men can try to mitigate issues like these by spotlighting their female peers’ good ideas when appropriate.
Women are more likely to be excluded from work-related gatherings that take place outside the office, yet these events are often where advantageous connections are made. Prevent gatekeeping by making a point to invite all employees to gatherings, remaining mindful of personal biases.
When Women Lead
With women in leadership positions, organizations thrive. The American Psychological Association reports the following advantages inherent in female leadership according to decades of research:
- Increase in productivity
- Enhanced collaboration
- Improved organizational dedication
- Improved fairness
Firms with more women in senior positions are also more profitable, more socially responsible, and have higher quality customer experiences, according to research. Still, the number of female leaders is quite low. If organizations and individuals do not take action, they will lose their women leaders and possibly the next generation of women leaders as well.
Conversations surrounding harmful biases in the workplace aren’t necessarily easy to have. But when we learn how to be allies, we can nurture a healthier, more engaging environment for all employees.