A recent article written by Sheryl Sandberg in the Wall Street Journal, suggested that there is a crisis looming in corporate America with more than one in four women considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. This got me to thinking, is the same thing happening here in the UK and if it does happen, what effect will that have?
LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co have run a study over the last six years and published their findings in the 2020 Women in the Workplace Report. It showed slow but measurable progress for women in all levels of management and that these slow gains could be wiped out within a single year, as up to two million women are thinking of leaving their jobs.
In the channel we are starting to see a rise in female leadership, but during COVID many women have felt the strain of extra responsibility and worry. This has amplified a need to work longer and harder than their male counterparts at work, as they feel they are held to a higher standard and judged more harshly if they fail. Many do not feel comfortable sharing their concerns, or even communicating their childcare issues, to avoid being perceived negatively at work.
Today women are under immense pressure at home and at work, taking the lion’s share of the childcaring, relative caring and domestic tasks. The American statistics show that among senior level leaders with partners, 63% of women have one who works full time, compared with 35% of men. Senior level women are therefore 1.5 times as likely as men to consider downshifting or leaving. The top reason they give is burnout. Ethnic minorities and those with additional conditions are finding it even tougher, as they often feel excluded and don’t always feel they can properly express themselves.
If I think of my own friendship group of senior managers in large corporates around the UK. I am the only one left working full-time with a family. Some went part-time, others gave up work completely and cited burn-out as the reason. In our own organisations in the channel, working from home has blurred the lines for many, and we are seeing illness levels increasing.
If we don’t address these issues, we will continue to see absence levels increase and employee satisfaction decrease, which could lead to us losing some of our most valuable employees, who would be hard to replace.
If we come up with a solution now, we can increase productivity, employee satisfaction and retain the progress we are making to achieve diverse and inclusive teams.
We need to look at working from home and how we can make this work for our employees. Encourage regular breaks and regular hours, as well as a good balance of two-way communication and trust to work alone. What I think we need is good managers. Socially I think we need to look at the balance of responsibilities in the home and support our partners for healthier work life balances.