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A disturbing trend started to emerge in 2022: more and more women leaders are leaving their companies, and the gap between the rate at which women and men were leaving is the largest it’s ever been. These results, derived from over 333 companies surveyed in McKinsey’s 2022 Women at Work study, reveal that even the best-intentioned organizational diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts simply aren’t cutting it.

With over 42% of women experiencing burnout at work, companies can’t afford to ignore the consequences of these findings. Part two of this story (click here to read part 1) uncovers more reasons why women are stepping away from their companies. You’ll gain insights from notable thought leaders on building impactful, energizing and supportive programs and strategies that welcome women and help them stay with an organization.

Rewarding Your Changemakers

One of the most surprising insights of the McKinsey data is that, compared to men at their level, women leaders do more to support employee well-being and foster diversity, equity and inclusion — work that dramatically improves retention and employee satisfaction, but is not formally rewarded in most companies. When women leaders’ hard work isn’t recognized and they feel stretched thinner than male leaders, they’re far more likely to report burnout.

Michele Lamont headshot

Organizations can raise salaries all they want, but attracting and retaining loyal employees is not all about money, says Harvard University Professor Michèle Lamont, a renowned authority on social resilience, inclusion and group transformation.

Her decades of research, which shows that dignity, respect and inclusion are core aspects of employee satisfaction, helps organizations identify non-material incentives for building trust and loyalty to improve workplace culture, employee retention, collaboration and productivity. By teaching leaders how to become aware of their narratives around who matters and who doesn’t, she helps them create conditions where dignity, equality, respect and destigmatization are actively promoted and ensured so people can do their best work and be their best selves.

Prioritize DEI Commitment for Inclusion on Purpose

The secret to building inclusive culture, according to Ruchika Tulshyan, bestselling author of “Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work” (2022), is understanding the intersection of race and gender and how it impacts people in the workplace.

Her refreshing frameworks for developing inclusive workplace culture offer recommendations for small interventions, such as suggesting language shifts when hiring or structured feedback sessions that deliver an outsized impact to employees who feel unseen. Kind and relatable, she offers a breath of fresh air for anyone looking to escape tired DEI programs and move to a fully inclusive system with diversity built in. “Leaders have to continue to focus on culture because employees have a choice now,” Tulshyan emphasizes. “People aren’t going to stand for working in an environment where the culture isn’t right for them, and it’s up to us to create the environment of tomorrow, today.”

Modupe Akinola cropped headshot

Columbia Business School Professor Modupe Akinola understands how hard it can be for individuals to change their decision-making processes to address their biases. A former Bain & Company Consultant and Head of Diversity, she outlines the steps to embed DEI initiatives into a company’s culture so such efforts won’t be seen as simply an add-on that may end up falling off the radar altogether. Providing leaders with an actionable framework for prompting positive and productive conversations about diversity and equity within an organization, Akinola unveils tools and language that help leaders notice and understand other people and their perspectives, which improves group performance. This ultimately helps leaders engage in quality discussions, rather than disengaging from what may feel like a daunting process of building DEI initiatives.

McKinsey’s study makes one undeniable conclusion clear: companies that ignore the importance of impactful DEI programs do so at their peril. By making DEI a priority, organizations can foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all employees, which can lead to increased innovation, productivity and sweeping success. Overall, building impactful DEI programs is crucial for any organization that wants to thrive in today’s diverse and rapidly changing world.

When a company has built a culture of belonging with impactful, energizing and supportive strategies, it attracts and retains top-level talent across gender boundaries. Stern Strategy Group connects you with renowned thought leaders whose insights, strategies and management frameworks help organizations fuel growth and disruptive innovation to better compete in a constantly changing world. Let us arrange for these esteemed experts to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting sessions, workshops and keynotes.

Part 2: Why Women are Walking Away from Their Companies – And How to Get Them Back was last modified: January 26th, 2023 by Meg Virag