A study by the Network of Executive Women cites that senior executive women are “heading for exit ramps at an astonishing clip.” The study projects that female executive leadership will decline more than 50 percent over the next decade, leaving women in about 15 percent of executive roles.
Where are they going? To find or create organizations with the culture they desire. There’s a cost associated with that leap.
With women leaving top roles, revenues will go down. A Forbes article cites a statistic from Shark Tank that, “Out of more than 40 companies he invested in, about 95% of the women-led companies met their financial targets, compared with just 65% for businesses with male leaders.” Why is that? The article notes a new survey revealing that “women-led organizations are also more likely to have engaged, inspired and satisfied employees than male-led firms.” When the rubber hits the road, “Fifty percent of Americans say they’d prefer to work at a female-led company over a male-led company because they’re more purpose-driven, more likely to have access to childcare, and are more likely to offer equal pay.”
Words like purpose, family and equal resonate with me on a personal level. When I was on an executive team as the only woman, these words became viscerally clear to me the day my kids’ ride failed to show up at work and I was scrambling to solve the problem on my phone without missing an important meeting. These guys all had someone at home taking care of these details. There was not a lot of grace in my moment of need.
On the flip side, when my kids were babies, my husband stayed home for three years because I had a great job with benefits that required me to work more than 60 hours a week. The kids are really close to their dad today because of it, so we have no regrets. At the same time, to make it work I had to haul a breast pump on airplanes and hide in bathroom stalls to make it happen.
The idea of work/life balance is antiquated. Today it’s more helpful to talk about work/life integration. When you are working 60 hours a week, there is no way you are devoting an equal 60 hours to home life. The operative word here is equanimity: how can we hold our inner life and our outer life in balance to complement each other?
Here are a few things to look for if you seek a company culture supportive of your whole life:
- Flexible schedules. As a child who never saw her parents in the stands at a basketball game, I declared that I would never miss a home game. I don’t make all the games, but my kids know when they can count on me to be cheering from the sidelines.
- Accommodations for nursing moms. Progressive companies have special rooms for nursing moms, flexibility for doctor visits and even in-house day care.
- Workplace yoga. We all know we have to slow down to go faster…at least I hope we know that. Even a ten minute yoga breathing class provides tremendous energy benefits.
- Mindfulness. Really successful developmental companies are starting meetings mindfully and encouraging full presence to make the best use of everyone’s time. The days of talking to the tops of heads who are reading email during a meeting are over.
- Development. On the subject of developmental companies, I was nearly 50 before I worked for a company that provided development and succession planning at all levels. Companies who exist to just suck dry their workforce are like panty hose — who needs them any more?
As long as workers demand these benefits, companies will conform. Stand up for your own equanimity. If you can’t find a place that provides space to live your whole life, look for a woman at the helm.