It is a fact. There are fewer women at the top of the corporate ladder, inspite of them accounting for 47% of the labor force and more than 45% of the college educated workforce. In many fields, their presence in senior leadership roles is between 10%-20%. In fact, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in key leadership roles in the United States.

Bain & Company’s research says, companies start strong on gender, with almost half of entry-level roles filled by women. “Yet women’s ambition for top management posts starts dropping just two years into the workforce, ultimately falling by whopping 60%.” Numerous professionals speculate that the reason for this plunging trend is women’s role in assuming family and personal responsibilities. But that’s not the real reason.

According to a Harvard Business School survey, majority of both men and women agree that taking on leadership roles demands time. It becomes a 24*7 affair. And to sustain the role, people need to take on high visibility, high impact and high risk projects. It is this inability to step off the pedal, and the relentless stress associated with it, that affects women’s drive to manage senior roles. Moreover, the expectation of around the clock connectivity, is now being considered weary. Employees spend between 70-80% of their time on productivity tolls, calls, meetings and emails. They barely have any bandwidth to achieve targets. The result – a 75 hour work week!

However, it wouldn’t be fair to say that only women are affected by this. Even men report feeling worn down by work-related stress. But they feel less deterred by it, as compared to women. But, since gender diversity is now a non-negotiable for workplaces, ending the 24*7 workday is a first step to welcome workers who feel a sense of satisfaction and meaning in life. This would also allow women more control over their lives.

To start making this shift, offers three suggestions for managers to start implementing with all their employees.

  • Check-in with individual team members regularly, to understand what is driving their desire (or lack of desire) to advance. Unless you have this information, you cannot impact them.
  • Tap women and men equally to take on high-profile assignments and new opportunities, and challenge women’s notions of “not ready” or “not qualified.” In addition, track the distribution of mission-critical work to ensure it is shared among women and men.
  • Talk openly about the trade-offs between staff roles and line roles, and set expectations that line roles offer the type of experience that typically accelerates advancement and more often leads to the C-suite.

If you’re wondering about the impact of gender diversity at work, read an earlier article of ours here. Given the  global and inclusive nature of our workplaces, leveraging everyone’s potential is the most compelling path to business success. Are you on board?

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