Article

NextGen Know-How: How Do We Keep Women in the Workplace?

female employee carrying box of belongings as she prepares to leave office
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

4 minutes

Family needs, the wage gap and lack of engagement are driving a major exodus in the workforce.

Many organizations around the country are finding it challenging to hire excellent, committed employees. A record number of employees have quit their jobs in the past six months. In the past year, many women have left the workplace to care for their families, a trend that has essentially erased any gains women had previously made in the workplace.

The primary reasons women are leaving the workplace: caring for their family, better work-life balance and the gender wage gap. When partners are faced with the decision of who will leave the workforce to care for the family, it’s typically the spouse who is earning less. And because of the gender wage gap, more often than not, it’s women. The pandemic forced families to make tough decisions during a complex and challenging time.

Gallup has concluded from recent research that “The Great Resignation is not an industry, role, or pay issue. It’s a workplace issue.” Meaning, employees are leaving the workforce because the traditional workplace is not meeting their needs. Gallup’s data shows that employees are discontent at work, and effective people management skills are necessary to engage and retain workers.

I believe one of the biggest challenges in attracting and retaining excellent employees—especially women—is that the traditional model of most organizations no longer works in today’s society. The traditional organization expects employees to check their personal life at the door, be on site for eight or more hours a day and work for managers who lack leadership skills. As more women have entered the workforce over the past three decades, they have struggled to balance the demands of work and home. Research shows that women still handle most of the household and family duties. And women are exhausted and burnt out from trying to do it all.

The past 18 months have caused a change in how employees think about work, which in turn has shifted what is important to them. The pandemic thrust most workers into a virtual environment, and although this was challenging for many families with children at home, experiencing a different way to work had benefits for many. The impact of no travel left more time for family and health. Employees saw the opportunity for better quality of life by cutting out the stress of long commutes. During the pandemic, our organizations were forced to shift and evolve to survive the disruption, and this shift in work model led many employees to change how they think about work. In many cases, productivity actually increased because of the flexibility employees had to manage their time and energy.

Now, as offices reopen, many women are tired of having to balance commuting to work, being chained to a desk and struggling to make it home in time to put their kids to bed. And while some positions do require employees to be on site all of the time, many jobs that are knowledge-based can be done effectively in a remote or hybrid model. Organizations need to modernize their workplace to be able to keep up with the constantly changing and evolving needs of employees. This includes creating cultures where employees feel a connection to the company and their colleagues, find meaning in their work, have a manager who invests in them and their career, and have leadership that fosters an environment that cultivates personal and professional growth. And women especially want to feel like they can have a fulfilling and holistic life, not a life that is solely centered around work.

As part of the CUES Real Talk! series next month, we will be discussing this very topic—how the Great Resignation has impacted women and what it means for women and the future of work. I hope you will join me and our fantastic panelists on November 10 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. ET to discuss this topic and hear what actions we can take as credit union leaders to keep and advance women in the workplace.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or lmaddalena@envisionexcellence.net.

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