Women leaders are leaving. Are you doing anything to retain them?

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The “Great Breakup” is here. Women in leadership are switching jobs at the highest rate ever recorded. Why now? According to the Women in the Workplace 2022 report from Lean In® and McKinsey & Co.®, employers aren’t doing enough to create a workplace that prioritizes flexibility, employee wellbeing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Women leaders are also struggling to advance in the workplace: for every 100 men who are promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted. Additionally, women are more likely than men to experience microaggressions at work—such as having their judgement questioned, or having others imply that they aren’t qualified for their roles. Women leaders suffer from the pressure of being overworked and underrecognized. They report spending more time and energy on work that often isn’t recognized, and in turn feel stretched thin and burnt out. These dynamics are even more pronounced for women of color. Currently, only 1 in 20 C-suite leaders is a woman of color.

So, what does this mean for your organization?

Vague statements about employee wellness aren’t going to cut it anymore—women want to work for companies that show they value their contribution and are committed to employee wellbeing and inclusivity in a concrete way.

The Women in the Workplace 2022 report found that flexibility is key to retaining women. Companies must allow employees to work in a way that’s best for them, and to recognize them as complex individuals with lives, obligations, and pursuits outside of work.

Providing better training and rewards to women in leadership is also a vital step. When training is focused on specific topics—such as how to minimize burnout, manage bias, or ensure promotions are equitable—leaders are better able to thrive and manage their responsibilities. And celebrating and rewarding those who excel doesn’t go unnoticed. Companies should acknowledge managers who stand out for their efforts to support employees and foster inclusion within their teams.

Care about flexibility and wellbeing? Prove it to your employees.

While many companies experienced a significant outflow of women during recent years, Kelly® did not. Historically, we’ve put a bright spotlight on creating flexible, inclusive work environments that embrace the importance of our employees’ professional and personal lives. Not to mention, championing the progress of women at work is deeply rooted in our company DNA.

We highly value workplace flexibility for our employees and know that unexpected things come up—and that this burden often falls to women as the default caretakers of their families. To alleviate this, we currently offer our employees free premium subscriptions to the Calm® sleep and meditation app, five additional vacation days available for purchase, five paid mental health and wellbeing days, four paid days to use for additional holidays or days of personal significance, and five paid days for unexpected, significant life events not covered—such as divorce, pregnancy loss, or elder care.

By offering employees the breathing room to manage their personal lives without fear of being punished or falling behind at work, we’re recognizing them as multifaceted humans with diverse, often-complicated personal lives that simply require flexibility. These offerings were added to our benefits package after gathering feedback from our internal, employee-led affinity groups and others across the organization. Our intention was to better support our people through flexibility and to meet their specific wants and needs in the workplace.

The “Great Breakup” can’t be ignored. Are you prepared?

Companies must focus on elevating more women into leadership roles and on retaining the women leaders they already have. If organizations don’t take action, they risk losing their valuable women leaders—along with the next generation of leaders. Ambitious, socially conscientious women are watching leaders leave for greener pastures, and they’re prepared to do the same.


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Source: Women in the Workplace, 2022, McKinsey & Company, Lean In

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