Top 5 Effective Ways to Retain The Most Ambitious Talent in the Market

Women are more highly motivated than ever to lead organizations, and research shows that young women and women of color are among the most highly motivated groups in the labor market. Women under 30 report deep desires to be Senior Leaders and 50% say advancement has become more important to them in the last 2 years which is much higher than the past. Minority women are significantly more ambitious than the general consensus of females as 59% of minority women leaders desire to be top executives. We have a great pocket of super ambitious talent in our young and minority females putting in the work.

However, women leaders at the mid level generally titled “Directors” sent a message of burnout in 2022 by leaving corporate in historic numbers during the “Great Breakup”. The good news is that armed with this information about younger and minority females high ambition levels, companies may consider addressing some solutions to the top headwinds these females face in order to recruit and retain them. Most of these suggestions fall into the category of cultural change; so while employee bias training and updates to performance reviews do come with a cost, we’re looking at much lower than a capital investment requiring structural change. With women led firms generally being 25% more profitable, retaining your female leadership pipeline is not only the right thing to do in the name of gender equality, but a nice byproduct could affect your bottom line positively as well.

We have taken the 5 of the most commonly reported headwinds that affect women’s decisions to leave corporate and have made a recommendation on what your company can do to address them in order to gain a healthier pipeline of female leadership.

  1. Define the criteria for advancement, and make it available
    • This is critical to retaining high achieving workers. 77% of women say they feel that the biggest headwind to gender equity in the workplace is the lack of information on how to advance. 37% of women vs (64% of men) reported that their companies provide information on career paths that lead to executive roles. This is something corporate leadership can do at no cost and sends a strong signal to its workforce about equality and inclusiveness.
  2. Conduct employee training on age bias to prevent assuming most women are young or that they have available discretionary time
    • Women leaders are 2x as likely as men leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior. Women leaders are 4x as likely to be doing most of the family’s housework and caregiving. Men’s contribution to the household generally declines to low levels as they are promoted upwards. Although probably not ill-intentioned, the assumption that many female leaders are less experienced or have extra time in the day to take on more just statistically isn’t the case; and could lead anyone to burn out quickly.
  3. Encourage professional expressions of ambition as positive with People Managers
    • Women who negotiate for raises and promotions are 30% more likely to be considered as “too aggressive” or “intimidating.” Statistics show that women who don’t negotiate at all are 67% less likely to receive the exact same negative feedback. We love when a women negotiates a great deal on behalf of the company- why view it negatively if she tries to negotiate internally? The point here isn’t to pay more than your company can afford, let’s update the views on negotiation and the “try.” Negotiation takes guts, and gutsy people are going to negotiate on your corporate behalf as well in general.
  4. Performance Evaluations should place emphasis on measurable results NOT physical presence if its not required
    • Two-thirds of women under 30 say they would be more interested in advancing if they saw senior leaders with the work-life balance they want. 49% of women leaders say flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company, compared to 34% of men leaders. With small children, there are a variety of essential tasks that a parent is uniquely qualified for – staying at home when children are sick, doctor’s appointments, etc. are quick examples. Where a company is able to offer it, flexible work location and hours is the defining factor of our time. It will separate the companies who want gender inclusivity from those who do not prioritize it.
  5. Place value on People Managers doing DEI work, and encourage differing point of views downstream
    • Only 1 in 5 women feel strongly valued at their company. Women were 25% less likely to say they felt comfortable sharing a dissenting opinion and were 20% less likely to say their unique background and identity were valued at their company. This is low hanging fruit to capture more innovative ideas with the diversity you have in your company.
    • When we look at women in leadership – they report being overworked, and don’t get enough recognition to feel valued. The problem that’s growing is the gap between what’s expected of managers and how they’re being trained and rewarded per the Women in the Workplace report. The report found that “most companies say managers have been expected to do more over the last two years to support employees’ well-being and advancement and promote inclusion on their teams. At the same time, the shift to remote and hybrid work has made managers’ jobs more challenging. Yet relatively few companies are adequately training managers to meet these new demands, and even fewer recognize people management and DEI efforts in managers’ performance reviews.” This list is in no way comprehensive, but shows the most impactful ways you can make effective change to change the trajectory of your company’s female leadership pipeline to affect maximum change.

Is your company implementing these measures as part of your DEI initiatives?


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