The Solution to Retaining Women Employees
Editor’s Note: We are honored to run a mini-series called The Values Revolution authored by our very own leaguer, Dana Theus. This is article 3 in the series. Be sure to check out the rest of the series HERE.
While worker dissatisfaction trends are generally documentable, and I documented them in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, there is one subgroup of employees, educated women, who very cohesively demonstrate the revolutionary values causing broader discontent. Looking at the choices and challenges of women in the workforce provides important insight into both the problems and the solutions corporate leaders must address to manage the revolution rumbling through their employee base.
There are numerous studies that show how women’s participation in workgroups improve the efficacy of those groups and – when the group is a board of directors – the profitability and long-term viability of the companies they run. The success of these gender-balanced groups is attributed in large part to the fact that women encourage many of the revolutionary values mentioned above in the leadership cultures in which they participate. Their involvement welcomes a diversity of thinking and engenders broader definitions of success. However, thanks in part to lazy leadership, women make up less than 20% of most senior leadership teams. The farther up the leadership ladder we look, the fewer and fewer women there are.
The success of these gender-balanced groups is attributed in large part to the fact that women encourage many of the revolutionary values mentioned above
But it is this very habit of looking at the problem of leadership diversity as a demographic phenomenon that continues to obscure the real forces in operation, much less its ultimate cost. Executive teams shrug helplessly at the cultural challenges of glass ceilings, which bar women and other diverse populations from reaching leadership positions in significant numbers. Companies have put diversity programs in place to create change, which in the last decade have barely moved the demographic needle. This lack of urgency and seriousness assumes that a continued stream of bright, highly qualified white men will continue to be available to fill the available slots at the top.
The leadership solution is one of values, not demographics.
However, when we view leadership diversity as a function of the values revolution, the glass ceiling becomes less an immovable barrier than a closed door that many talented women, and more and more men also, choose not to open. Unlike the old glass ceiling, this door is not closed by demographics but by values. And when we look at the populations that are rejecting the climb to leadership positions, we see that while women are the first in line, the canaries in the coal mine so to speak, close behind them are the children they raised, of both genders. This explains why over 50% of millennial workers are planning to leave (or never enter) large organizations in favor of starting their own companies, more than twice the number of their parent’s generation.
Corporate leaders are facing an employee retention problem of dramatically growing proportions in the years ahead, and the leadership solution is one of values, not demographics.
Check out more from Dana’s mini-series, The Values Revolution.
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