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News24.com | OPINION | Why senior women are quitting their jobs

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Women are switching jobs at the highest rate ever, according to a new report. Now, for every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two women directors leave. The path forward is clear, writes Lisa Saunders.


When it comes to
women and leadership, the paradox — and the data — are clear.

Companies
recruit men and women in near-equal numbers out of
college. In fact, they’ve outnumbered men in the
workforce every year since 1990. When it comes to leadership skills, women
consistently score higher than men in
key competencies, like taking initiative and driving for results. 

So
why are only 8.8% of Fortune
500 CEOs women?

It’s
not because they’re less capable of running businesses. Research actually
proves the opposite: women-led organisations are more profitable and more innovative. 

Despite
these statistics, women are switching jobs at the highest rate ever, according
to a new report from LeanIn.org
and McKinsey. Now, for every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two
women directors leave. Researchers are calling it the “Great Breakup”, and say
the reasons are clear: women aren’t promoted as often as men, they’re
overworked and under-recognised, and they don’t feel supported in their companies’
cultures.

A
growing number of CEOs know they aren’t doing enough to leverage the wealth of
experience and education that their women employees have. And they’re eager to
build a more equitable workplace amidst a competitive war for talent. 

To
do this, companies need to uncover the reasons why women leave to fulfil their
potential elsewhere. Here, we share what companies need to do next.

Step 1: Get granular to
identify the
real choke points

Women’s
representation in
management is improving. But a closer look at the granular data
reveals problems that go deeper than surface-level demographics. Between
entry-level jobs and senior leadership, for example, women of colour’s
representation drops off to over 75%.

Go
deeper into employee data and get precise about where the problems are.
Analysing by location, department, and role is a great place to start. But
don’t stop there: Instead, slice and dice the data further and add variables
like racial background, age, sexual orientation, and ability. That should
clarify the areas needing attention.

Now
there’s a starting point, set goals based on benchmarks from trustworthy
sources like the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. Also, consider data from industry groups or
reputable consulting and research firms.
Internal company data and third-party organisations can help employees tasked
with building gender equity deliver efficient (and effective) support.

Step 2: Care for the
entire employee lifecycle

The
stereotype is that most women leave their jobs to care for family members. But
data proves the reality is far different: many women
leave jobs to take roles that offer more responsibility or higher pay. That’s
no surprise, considering half of women report losing out
on promotions, despite meeting all qualifications. Another half report being
paid less
than their industry counterparts. And for some, flexibility has become a
must-have: 40% of working women report
actively looking for a new job to take advantage of remote or hybrid work
policies.

The
message for CEOs is clear. To value and empower women, employers must care for
them during the full employee lifecycle.

Reevaluate recruitment
and application processes

Start
by focusing on the universities and recruiters with a history of attracting the
most qualified women candidates. Form a hiring committee with members
representative of the diverse company culture you want to build. Empower them
with the right training so the interview process is free from micro-aggressions
and bias. Track progress closely to find out when and why women drop out of the
hiring funnel.

Prioritise work-life
solutions that matter 

Significant enthusiasm gaps exist
between men and women’s attitudes about fair pay, healthcare, family leave, and
flexible scheduling. Consider the ways biased attitudes influence current
policies, keeping in mind that upgrading them will allow for the women in your
workforce to feel fully empowered as employees and as individuals outside of
work.

Improve retention with equal access to promotions and fair pay

Ensure fair treatment with analyses that get to the heart
of why people leave their jobs. Compare the length of time it takes for women
and men to earn promotions. Perform a pay equity analysis. Examine turnover
rates between men and women with a deep dive into the differences between
departments, roles, locations, racial backgrounds, religions, and other
demographics.

Step 3: Bridge the
skills gap

Saying “good job” isn’t enough: half of women professionals report
receiving ineffective feedback from managers. Women are eager to know specifics
about how they can improve, why they aren’t being promoted, and what they can
do about it. 

Build tailored promotion
plans that maintain enthusiasm

Customise
career progression pathways for women that map to broader organisational goals,
build leadership skills, and fill skills gaps. Partner high-potential women
with high-level decision-makers in formal mentorship programmes. Give stretch
assignments. Deliver in-the-moment training with a tool like myTrailhead so women
can learn in the moments that matter most. 

Put more emphasis on
soft skills

Data
shows women often excel at building trust, collaborating with partners, and leading with empathy. Reconsider
the ways leadership soft skills
make businesses more profitable.

Take the next step

Finally,
hold executives and organisations accountable for fairness in the workplace.
Including a gender equity statement as part of a mission statement is something
68% of women professionals
support.

Track
and report efforts over time, remembering to follow the data so executives can
address problems as soon as they arise. Following granular trends will show
women in the workforce that executives are serious about their capabilities and
contributions, and will lead a company to a more profitable, innovative future.

Linda Saunders, Director
Solution Engineering, Salesforce South Africa. 
News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 



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