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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Action Plan: 7 steps for companies to move from laggard to leader

Only 19% of women think their company has a gender diverse leadership team. (1)

The World Economic Forum recently reported:

‘The pandemic has set gender parity efforts back by a generation or more.’ (2)

If companies don’t move to address the issues women face at work, they’ll lose some of their best people — and struggle to recruit talented women.


What a week:

  • Snap 7-day lockdown

  • Kids home schooling

  • Zoom meeting then Zoom meeting…..then Zoom meeting

  • Boundaries between home and work gone

  • Even the dog looks stressed 🐶

  • Life during the pandemic = tough

And before we's a quick PUB QUIZ...

True or false (based on recent research by Deloitte on the Australian workforce)?

(No glancing at the answers below)

  1. Before the pandemic, 75% of women rated their job satisfaction, motivation and productivity as good. Today the figure is below 50% (T or F?)

  2. Only one third of women say they have a positive work-life balance (T or F?)

  3. Before the pandemic, 75% of women said their mental health was good. Today the figure is the same (T or F?)

  4. Only 40% of women say their company has given them sufficient support in recent months (T or F?)

  5. One third of women feel their career progression is being impacted by caring or household responsibilities (T or F?)

  6. 45% of the women who had to change their working hours due to care responsibilities say their relationship with their employer was negatively impacted (T or F?)

  7. 8% of women have considered leaving the workforce during the pandemic (T or F?)

  8. 64% of women say they have the greater responsibility for household tasks – which they need to balance with work commitments (T or F?)

  9. 76% of women say their workload has increased compared to before the pandemic (T or F?)

  10. Only 25% of women say their employer has created ‘clear boundaries’ between home and work life (T or F?)

  11. 61% of women think their companies provide flexible working arrangements for all (T or F?)

  12. 58% of women plan to leave their current employer within 2-years (T or F?)

Answers: 1 (T) 2(T) 3 (F- the figure today is 35%) 4 (T) 5 (T) 6(T) 7(F- the figure is 23%) 8 (T) 9 (T) 10 (T) 11 (F- the figure is 27%) 12 (T)

....Right, Back to the Blog...

Some companies have created genuinely inclusive cultures - where women are fully supported by management and respected by their peers.

  • Women who work for these companies—call them ‘gender equality leaders’—report high levels of mental wellbeing, motivation, productivity, and loyalty. They’re more likely to say they plan to stay longer than two years

  • Women who work for companies that don’t demonstrated an inclusive culture - call these companies ‘laggards’ - are more likely to leave. 43% of women working for laggard companies have considered leaving in the last 12-months according to the Deloitte research.

Business leaders – you can’t ignore this.

This is a critical moment.

Action Plan: 7 steps for companies to move from laggard to leader

Step 1 : Visible support of top leaders

The role of leaders in enabling gender equality is clear— from providing work-life balance and supporting the development of women to ensuring that an inclusive everyday culture is embedded. Leaders need to ‘walk the talk.’ (3)

Promote inclusion at every opportunity.

But, recognise a ‘one size fits all’ approach to leading people doesn’t work in 2021 -everyone has their own individual challenges - emphasis the ‘one size fits one’ approach.

Step 2: Encourage flexible working

Introduce options of innovative, flexible working for all employees - job-sharing, hybrid work arrangements, term-time working—an engrained culture that enables work-life balance for all. (4)

It’s about asking each team member individually – and normalizing flexible working – with leaders providing support to ensure that those who work flexibly don’t sacrifice career progression in doing so.

There’s a lot to be done in this area.

This will be an iterative process for companies – get going and then adapt and tweak the approach to ensure it works for all. (5)

Step 3: Destroy the culture of presenteeism

The shift to remote work and our ‘always on’ digital culture has triggered a new type of presenteeism. Rather than turning up to the office, remote workers are pressured to be online and visible all the time - often to the detriment of their physical and mental health.

Presenteeism is an issue for many women – with two-thirds saying their employers judge them by the amount of time they spend online. This ‘perception’ does a lot of damage. (6)

Step 4: Encourage your team to SWITCH OFF

Leading on from step 3:

One third of women say they’re unable to switch off from work – they’re worried career progression will be impacted. Heightened anxiety during the pandemic has led to women working longer hours and taking fewer sick days - all the while becoming less fulfilled by work and life.’ (7)

So - No out of hours emails. Review work deadlines. Reduce the urgency. Cut out unnecessary meetings.

Step 5: Provide fulfilling roles and development opportunities for women

Provide better learning opportunities. More interesting projects. More responsibility. Spend more on training, mentoring, coaching.

One of the most-cited (41%) things companies can do is support women’s development and ensure they stay. But only 22% of women in the Deloitte research said they get development opportunities.

Step 6: Support life outside of work

Better support for childcare and caring duties. Provision of short-term sabbaticals. Better resources to support mental health.

The latter might include a focus on training and raising awareness of how to deal with mental health issues. Escalation processes. External support resources.

Step 7: Create and maintain a culture that’s inclusive

Women still encounter non-inclusive behaviours in the workplace - even while the majority of work has been conducted remotely: More than half report experiencing such behaviours at work in the past 12 months.

While some feel able to report such behaviours to their employers, many don’t — citing concerns about adverse career impact as their primary reason, closely followed by a belief that the issue wasn’t serious enough to report.

This has to change.

So, overall the situation is far from satisfactory – there’s a lot of work to be done. Hopefully, the pandemic will spur companies to take action and tackle issues energetically.

But this means acting now.

Unless we reverse the harm done over the past year, the impact will be felt by female employees - as well as their companies – for some time to come.

(The dog is still looking stressed).

  1. Women at work, Australia findings, Deloitte research, 2021

  2. Coronavirus has reversed progress on gender equality, World Economic Forum

  3. Women at work, Deloitte research, 2021

  4. Hybrid working, don’t fake it to make it, H R Director, 20 July, 2021

  5. Hybrid working, don’t fake it to make it, H R Director, 20 July, 2021

  6. How to stamp out 'digital presenteeism' among remote workers, Yahoo Finance, 22 July 2021

  7. The age of ambiguity, Aviva research, December 2020

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