According to a 2017 study by McKinsey about women in the workplace, women continue to get siphoned out of the corporate pipeline, and it starts at the first key career juncture. Women earn only 18% of promotions from entry-level to managerial positions. There’s been finger-pointing in all directions; is the confidence gap between men and women responsible? Is the corporate world a boys’ club with a disparate amount of opportunities available to men and women? Could the caregiving responsibilities accompanying the life milestones (e.g., marriage and children) coinciding with this stage in a woman’s career be to blame for the stagnation and attrition rates?
The good news is that corporations are starting to address the gender gap, if only because the research in favor of more diversity at the top is overwhelming in its findings — diverse teams drive greater revenue and exceed virtually every metric of success. Taking on the daunting yet hopeful task of equal access, pay and opportunity across culture, race and gender boundaries, many executives find that they don’t quite know where to start. If you’re looking to even the playing field for women at your organization, here are 5 simple steps you can take to reduce female attrition in the workplace and move women up the corporate ladder:
1. Avoid the "Happy Hour" penalty.
Company-wide social events are great networking opportunities, and often provide insight into new projects and roles. While happy hours are ideal for the young and untethered, they often become missed opportunities for married employees and/or those with families to go home to. While dual income households are increasingly sharing after-work childcare hours, research shows that women still bear the brunt of the burden, and thus, they are more likely to skip the optional Happy Hour at work and miss key opportunities. The best way around this is to shift the timing of intra-company social time by creating opportunities to socialize and interact with coworkers during the workday — lunch is a great option. You’ll find that the dads on your team eager to get home and see their families before bedtime will be grateful for this shift as well.
2. Create opportunities for women to connect with executive-level managers.
Everyone needs a little nudge sometimes. Give the women on your team the confidence, time, and tools to interact with executives at the company by making them a part of the conversation. Invite occasional guest speakers to your team meetings, schedule luncheons with the executives, or open up a digital channel of communication such as a monthly "ask anything" webinar with company leaders. Offering stretch assignments and a seat at the decision-making table are other key ways in which you can foster cross-rank collaboration and give high potential women greater exposure and career-building experience.
3. Create a sponsorship program in-house.
Along with all the transformative good that has accompanied the rise of the #metoo movement in recent months, there have also been some not-so-great side effects, one of which being that the number of men open to mentoring women has taken a nosedive. Men’s hesitancy to mentor women in their organizations, no doubt, isolates women from their managers and decreases opportunities for career advancement. Male executives at Oath, Facebook, and Linkedin, among others, have all made a commitment to mentor more women, because studies clearly show that intentional programs connecting leaders with junior talent are instrumental to career growth. This sponsorship — actively championing someone else outside or inside the organization for leadership positions, in-house promotions, or project leadership — has happened naturally between men over the years. A formalized program with KPIs for managers can ensure that it happens for women as well. Tip: put a formal structure in place for the sponsorship program that provides clear guidelines so that male mentors feel less hesitant to take on this kind of relationship.
4. Build goals for developing high potential women into KPI's.
Accountability is key. Build goals for the professional development of high-potential women into your manager KPIs. For example: goal: achieve 40% female leadership in middle management by 2020, action steps: mentor two high-potential women on your team in 2018, identify one high-potential female team member for a stretch assignment, host three executive lunches with the internal women’s group this year.
5. Flexible schedules.
Build a team that operates on trust and results rather than face time. The ability to work from home and to manage the delivery of non-time-sensitive assignments with a certain degree of flexibility is extremely valuable to women with caregiving responsibilities. In order to successfully implement flexible policies, it’s important to set clear expectations and ensure employees understand when flexibility is permitted vs. when specific hours or deadlines need to be met.
Maria Carolina Simon is a Corporate Relationship Manager at a popular crowdfunding platform and co-founder of “CFW: Changing the Conversation”, an organization that works to empower women in business via networking and training.
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