Women are leaving their jobs in record numbers, as many as 2 million, according to McKinsey & Company’s eighth annual Women in the Workplace report. They attribute the “great breakup” to three primary reasons:
- Women leaders want to advance, but they face stronger headwinds than men.
- Women leaders are overworked and underrecognized.
- Women leaders are seeking a different culture of work.
This migration, which means there will be fewer women in leadership positions and even fewer on track to be future leaders, could have a devastating impact on businesses and erase the hard-earned progress that has been made. To put the issue in perspective, McKinsey said for every woman at the director level who gets promoted, two women directors are choosing to leave their company.
At the same time, COVID-19 — which forced companies to rethink work culture and skills needed for success — continues to impact organizational strategy and employee engagement. McKinsey noted that a “vast majority of employees want to work for companies that offer remote or hybrid work options. Only 7% of companies plan to pull back on remote and hybrid work in the next year, and 32% say these options are likely to expand.”
For women, remote or hybrid work scenarios are preferable — only one in 10 wants to work predominantly on-site — for several reasons beyond flexibility. It’s reported that when women have the option to work remotely, even just some of the time, they are subject to fewer instances of microaggression and experience greater psychological safety.
Ultimately, women want to work “for companies that are prioritizing the cultural changes that are improving work: flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity and inclusion.”
With so many new variables impacting the workplace, it’s critical that leaders take stock of how they are creating a positive environment for their teams. By leaning into new leadership skills, higher-ups can not only boost retention, but improve their own sense of job satisfaction.
Earlier this year, we asked high-performing women leaders given either the Rising Star Award or Luminary Award by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) how they are adapting their leadership strategies based on lessons learned from the pandemic. Here’s what they had to say.
An upward learning curve
“As we exit out of COVID-19, we must commit ourselves to learning continuously. Many aspects of the workplace will continue to change. As an example, many employees work from home now, but that means we must learn how to engage effectively in a remote environment and make use of changing digital technology.”
April Walker Cobb, global clinical insights, Siemens Healthineers
Report out and in
“Identifying the needs of my reports. Many employees went from an in-person group to a remote work environment. This change had some negative impacts to work-life balance. Many staff lost the open dialogue with their peers and supervisors that allowed them to express their needs for success.
As typical 40-hour weeks blended into longer remote schedules, projects/assignments/tasks accumulated and became overwhelming. Maintaining an open dialogue and routine check-ins with my reports will allow me to support their efforts and shift tasks as needed. They will no longer have to worry about feeling out of sight, out of mind.”
Carrie Chastain, senior medical support specialist, CSL Plasma
Clear the path
“The most critical skill is actually a mindset shift. The leaders of today need to feel that it is our responsibility to help each person in our team/organization envision and trace a path forward and to commit to looking for and removing hidden barriers. This is how we will operationalize equity.”
Anne Brocchini, women’s leadership strategy and innovations lead, ZS
Create team trust
“I believe that being a curious leader will instinctually draw employees into a more meaningful conversation that should lead to strong relationships and will encourage trust in a team. Curiosity shows authenticity and that you don’t have all the answers, which shows you practice self-awareness, and can admit that mistakes are a critical part of their journey.”
Stephanie Sadaka, senior executive oncology sales specialist, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson
Mentor, mentor, mentor
“In the current competitive job market, it’s critical to develop and nurture talent from within our organizations, empowering our colleagues to take on more responsibility. I encourage my team to mentor their direct reports to replace them. With this mindset, we’re always looking forward and training our future leaders.”
Jenny Perry group vice president, scientific services, The Lockwood Group
“Compassion has become a critical leadership skill. The fortitude, resilience and flexibility we have witnessed across our industry and within our organizations due to COVID-19, has been inspiring and astonishing. The pandemic has led to rapid change, with which comes an opportunity to foster more diversity and inclusivity.”
Michelle Scott vice president and head, discovery and biotech solutions, Labcorp Drug Development
Always be learning
“Today’s digital economy demands current technology skills to stay connected, competitive, relevant and productive. We live in an ever-changing world, and we need to keep up, learning as we go. For me, the one skill is to always be learning and adapting to the needs of your employees and customers.”
Jennifer Turcotte, senior director, pharma strategy, Salesforce
“Adaptability — complexity and speed of change are reshaping how we do business and building teams. Adaptive is the new muscle we shall build to increase resilience, to anchor certainties amongst uncertainties, to inspire collective power from much broader (parts) of the organization.”
Ronnie Chen, people and culture head, Roche Pharma China, Roche Genentech
Trust is key
“The one skill leaders will need to demonstrate is trustworthiness. People are looking for a leader they can trust. Someone they know will have their back, who is looking out for their best interest, the best interest of their colleagues and the best interest of the business.
Merissa Oliver, executive vice president, The Kinetix Group