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We're in the Midst of a "Great BreakUp"

inspiration inspire leadership motivation women in the workplace Oct 25, 2022

We’re in the midst of a “Great Breakup”….is the headline for the Introduction to the Women in the Workplace 2022 study that was released last week. The study is a joint effort between Lean In and McKinsey & Company and is focused on women in leadership.

I found the study this year fascinating in particular because it has been a consistent concern for my clients that are young women in the corporate workplace. They are seeing the trend of women leaders leave at an alarming rate and it causes them great concern. As a coach, I am torn when working with them. On the one hand, I need to encourage them to stay focused on their goals and not to let outside influences sway them or throw them off center-beam. At the same time, I know it is a problem and that the trend seems to be intensifying.

The study shows that women are demanding more from their work and are willing to leave to get it. In fact, women leaders are switching jobs at a much higher rate than men in leadership! Women don’t move through the ranks as quickly or as easily as men, in part, because of the “broken rung” that is at the first step up to manager.

In fact, women leaders are just as ambitious as men, yet they face many more obstacles to their advancement. If companies don’t take action to stop or at least slow this trend, they will risk losing the next generation of women leaders.

As I was reading this study, it brought back the roller coaster of feelings that coursed through me when I was still in the corporate world. I was in the technology field, and it was not uncommon to be in a meeting of 20 men where I was the lone woman. The study talked about how much more frequently women are treated to bias and microaggressions, like having your judgement or decision-making questioned. I think the most insulting one is when you are mistaken for someone junior.

In some ways, we can let this get us worked up and maybe even resentful about the treatment but what does that solve. My mom, who was a strong entrepreneurial woman, taught me that the best way to confront these types of biases and stereotypes is to rise above it! You may think, “Isn’t that letting them off the hook?”

It’s a great question and my answer is a resounding NO! I have always said that I love it when “they” underestimate me, my capability, my intellect and my will to win/survive! I take the high road while at the same time making sure to get my point across. If we learn to stand up for ourselves in a way that doesn't offend or put others on the defensive, then we can accomplish far more. I’m not suggesting that we can overcome the biases and microaggressions so easily, but we can comport ourselves in a way that we can be proud of while not compromising our values, beliefs and professionalism.

It is the next generation of women leaders that I worry about. Women leaders are leaving companies at the highest rate in years so who will mentor this next generation of women? One of the best ways to learn is to model other people. We chose that leader that we admire, that we share values with and that we agree with on most things. Then we watch how they handle tough situations and learn from them. If these women leaders are no longer in our company who will these young women model?

It may seem like a small thing right now and yet over time, companies are certainly going to lose these young women if they are not properly mentored. In addition, the issues of bias and microaggressions will need to be dramatically reduced.

It has become a very common topic in my coaching practice with these next generation women leaders. In this calendar year alone, one of the companies that I work with has lost 5 senior women executives in IT. Some of them “retiring” early and then, quietly and without fanfare, their titles are changed in their LinkedIn profiles. Others are clearly moving to other companies. This seems to prove the study on a real level.

While I haven’t interviewed all of these women, I have spoken to two of them. Their experiences seem to be in agreement with what this study has found. Many women leaders are just simply demanding more from work and they we are willing to leave to have those demands met.

Women, especially women with families, are suffering from burnout at a much higher rate than men especially the higher up they go. They don’t feel they are getting the level of support at work or at home that they need to free them up to get some semblance of balance.

One of the things that is game-changing for women is remote and hybrid work. “The ability to choose the work arrangement they prefer, results in leaders that are less burned out, are happier in their jobs and are less likely to leave” states the study. There is a debate about whether remote or hybrid work is impacting productivity negatively and that the connectivity that we all need is suffering. Yet this study shows that women leaders may thrive when given the choice.

The downside of being a remote worker is that the ability to get noticed and recognized for advancement is lower than if you are in the office.

I really wish I had a magic wand that would solve this problem for us. But it is a complex issue that will require companies to invest in inclusive culture.

The study recommends five steps companies can take to navigate the shift to remote and hybrid work.

  1. Clearly communicate plans and guidelines for flexible work
  2. Gather regular feedback from employees
  3. Invest in fostering employee connectedness
  4. Be purposeful about in-person work
  5. Make sure the playing field is level

Another factor is that managers play an important role in retaining women. The problem is that often we expect a lot from these managers without giving them the training they need to be successful. Because they are not equipped with the skills needed, they often do not encourage respectful behavior or show interest in their team's career advancement. This gap in knowledge can seem to women leaders that they don’t care.

Companies need to set these managers up for success, hold them accountable and reward those who excel. While this report does uncover and shine a light on the “Great BreakUp” we still do not have definitive answers on how to make positive changes faster. There are some examples in the study of companies that have been successful with their efforts. Hopefully more companies will put focus on the issue so that we no longer need the study! I encourage you to read the full report. Here’s where you can find it!

About Connie

My greatest joy is helping clients become people who lead. My mission is to help people grow into the strong, successful people that I know they can be.  My passion is building great talent while building authentic and long-lasting relationships! I also love using my experience as both a corporate executive and an entrepreneur to provide actionable feedback that helps people reach new heights no matter if that is working in the corporate world or as an entrepreneur or as a stay-at-home parent! I start right where you are and we grow from there!

Growing up in a small town, I often found myself wondering if there were more to the world than this. After being given opportunities to lead, I genuinely felt like I was in my element for the first time in my life. I decided it was time to break free of my limitations and become the person I knew I was meant to be—confident to build a career that I had always imagined.

I have had a career signature of being asked by senior corporate leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Rick Wagoner to assume advisor-consultant roles with clients and executive teams. I was recruited by The Walt Disney Company to coach executives and worked jointly with their leadership to create career development plans for Disney’s Enterprise IT group.

As a recognized leader and mentor, I hold more than 20 years’ experience building relationships, developing teams, and coaching associates to success.

You can contact me via email at [email protected]


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