Flexibility is key, says McKinsey-LeanIn.Org Report 2022


Two and ½ years of the Covid era, and employees do not want to return to the workplace of the past. Especially women – who have significantly paid the higher price – demand more. Even more so those in leadership positions. If they feel they need to get more, in terms of flexibility, opportunity and companies’ commitment to DE&I, they don’t fear leaving in search of better conditions.

Women leaders are switching their jobs 

«We are in the midst of “The Great Breakup» confirms McKinsey and LeanIn.org’s recently published Women in the Workplace Report. Women leaders are switching their jobs at an unprecedented pace. To put it into numbers, for every woman promoted to a director level, two female professionals with the same position chose to leave for another company.

Companies are performing better in terms of diversity. The attention to inclusivity has been growing for decades now. Its value and the importance of offering employees an improved work-life balance are wildly recognized. It is also well-known how female leaders positively affect teams’ diversity scores and performances. Yet, no matter how hard the “Great Resignation” has hit in the past months – Forbes calculated that by the end of 2021, almost 48 million people in the US only had left their positions for others – organizations have not extensively addressed DE&I issues. Now they are losing their female leads to firms that pay more and offer greater opportunities for advancement and better conditions overall.

This year, according to McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, the gap between men and women leaders leaving their jobs is more significant than ever. The latter are choosing to leave because they prioritize career advancements, i.e. they look for workplaces that allow better opportunities to advance. And in their decision, also ponder the commitment a company shows when it comes to DE&I efforts.

Among others, the 2022 Report uncovers a noteworthy trend; women under 30 give higher importance to working in a flexible, fair and inclusive workplace. More than two-thirds of that age group want to become senior leaders and are more likely to prioritize flexibility and companies’ engagement to well-being and DEI. They know the factors that can drive them toward or away from a job. Broadly, concede the report’s authors, women are as ambitious as their male counterparts. So today, when they sense obstacles to their careers in a place, they look somewhere else where their potential is recognized and where they can get ahead.

Shadows, mid-tones and highlights

Regardless of gender, employees affirm the desire for more flexibility. But female leaders in greater numbers (49%) consider this aspect as one of the top 3 when deciding whether to leave or stay with a company (this is true for 34% of men.) One in 10 want to work on-site (18% of men affirm the same.) With extensive remote and hybrid working arrangements, women have had opportunities together with the challenges of balancing their work-life responsibilities. They have also experienced fewer micro-aggressions and felt higher levels of psychological safety (this is particularly true for women of colour and with disabilities.)

McKinsey / LeanIn.Org report on the state of corporate America is clear. Since 2017 women have been making gains, especially those in leadership positions. Yet, those gains are defined as “modest.” Female professionals are still underrepresented, particularly in the C-suite – 1 in 4, and only 1 in 20 if they are women of colour. Regarding promotion to manager, for every 100 men, only 87 women advance and 82 women of colour. Moreover, they are overworked and underrecognized. But at the same time, they do more than their male counterparts to support employees’ well-being and DE&I themes.

Shift in the work culture

Women leaders demand a shift in the work culture, notably since remote working and the flexibility it allows turned out to be game changers for them. But even if most companies confirm their managers have been expected to do more regarding diversity and inclusion, few calculate metrics for management. In fact, according to the data collected for the Report, only 40% of women affirm their manager helps them regulate and handle their workload and 44% that their superiors show interest in their career.

One of the main problems, but also a fast one to deal with, is training the management. Frequently they need to be better prepared to minimize burnout and overwork and to offer fairer access to promotions. Some are not encouraged, either. But, again, this can be another easy fix. Since it’s increasingly common for employees to review their superiors’ performance, why not start from here to draw a blueprint for intervention? It is about getting better at giving women the recognition and opportunity they deserve, and even realize that the problem exists in the first place.

Companies need to introduce meaningful actions. And they can do it by listening to female leaders’ demands with offering more equal opportunities. Tackle proximity biases, the tendency to promote someone who works on-site just because they are in the office. And contrast commitment assumptions, the belief that remote/hybrid workers are less devoted to the job and then less attached to their position/occupation.

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