The statistics on the number of women in leadership are well below our expectations; but as difficult as it is to confront, so too are the statistics on domestic violence , mental health , autoimmune disease , and the cost to our economy of absenteeism and presenteeism – issues that are all preventable and the result of increased stress and unworkable conditions in our workplaces.
I’m tired of gender being singled out as the reason why we don’t have enough women in leadership!
It does nothing to address the (real) problem – it not only diminishes the issue, but it diminishes the role we (as women) can play to make change happen – suggesting we are powerless in our ability to impact change presents an unconscious bias that women don’t have what it takes and thereby perpetuating a lack of confidence in doing anything about it. Not surprisingly, it’s left us with nothing more than an impulse to solve problems by force – which is out-of-date and old-fashioned in a world where we have access to engaging in a diverse-open-dialogue that inspires and empowers everyone!
What is the real problem?
- 1 in 3 women; and 1 in 4 men have been a victim of physical violence by an intimate partner.
- We have the highest rate of suicide in 13 years and it’s driven by men aged 40-44 years
- Auto-immune disease is so prevalent among women that it’s been declared the tenth leading cause of death for all women
- One in five Australians have taken time off due to feeling mentally unwell. Untreated mental health is costing Australian workplaces $10.9 billion per year – $4.7m in absenteeism, $6.1bn in presenteeism and $146m in compensation claims.
- Presenteeism is when an employee is at work despite having a sickness that justifies an absence and as a consequence, they are performing their work under sub-optimal conditions.
Despite substantial gains in women’s rights – at work, in politics and education, women are less happy today than they were 30 years ago. Having spoken with thousands of women – from all different backgrounds, cultures, experiences and interests over the past years, what I discovered is that, while there are definitely issues with equal pay, flexible work options, and gender equality; there are five underlying reasons why women are leaving.
1. It’s a big waste of time.
Working mothers are fed up with wasting time in unproductive meetings. They’re over wasting countless hours in meetings where people are attempting to do nothing more than stroke their ego – falsifying information (lying), gossiping and chatting about their social life. Women would much rather spend that time with their family.
Women would much rather spend that time with their family.
2. Nothing is more important than our health and the quality of our relationships.
Let’s talk about the impact of gossip, sabotage and undermining behaviours in the workplace; and how its affecting the quality of our life and our health.
The statistics are frightening – we have the highest rate of suicide amongst men 40-44 in 13 yrs, and autoimmune (a preventable stress-related) disease is so prevalent among women that its been declared the tenth leading cause of death for all women.
While it may be confronting, the harsh reality is that stress is the leading cause of these preventable diseases; stress that comes from constantly striving to do more, and be more, with less time, money and resources.
We walk around pretending life is great, meanwhile we’re burn-out, stressed, exhausted and working harder and longer than ever to compensate for something far more sinister like stroking egos.
Women are fed up working in an environment where people cannot treat each other with respect – and while there’s a stack of women committed to making a positive impact in their organisations, unless they have the right kind of support, they feel like lonely soldiers in the middle of a war.
3. Purpose and Values
Ever since Simon Sinek did his TED talk ‘Start With Why’, there’s been a revolution in the way people are designing and living their lives – women are no longer willing to tolerate working in an environment that is inconsistent with their values; and while it doesn’t happen overnight, it is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
While men are less concerned with a values-based approach, women are driven by values. If values are espoused (not enacted), we’re going to find it difficult to attract or retain women in business (let alone in leadership).
4. A lack of relevant support.
Organisations provide employees with professional development, which is great for those in the early years of their career, but they do nothing to impact a woman’s ability to deal powerfully with the challenges she faces in navigating the balance of her personal and professional life. While HR and EAP provide support for those in need, EAP is perceived as a program for those with serious issues (and thus women, and men for that matter, avoid it for fear of what others will think), and HR departments have a reputation for protecting the business, not the employee so women don’t feel safe in talking with HR to resolve issues they may have in managing their jobs for fear of the implications it has on them losing their job.
5. Leaders failing to operate with integrity.
We’ve come a long way with maternity (and paternity) leave, but it makes no difference when the leader accountable is not making time to discuss plans to return to work, is not taking a stand for them while they’re on leave to ensure they don’t miss out on opportunities that were part of their development plans, or worse yet is sending an email to inform them they’ve been made redundant while on their on leave.
If we’re serious about having more women in leadership and we really are committed to doing what it takes – and we’re not just paying lip service because we have a metric to meet, or we want to avoid the threat of public perception of inappropriate behaviours, or be perceived as addressing the problem (without having to make real changes), then we must work together to build a sustainable solution for everyone.
In the meantime, TEAM Women Australia is hosting a one-day workshop in Sydney on August 26 to enable women with the courage, compassion and confidence they need to be the change they want to see in the world!
For more information or to book tickets, visit their website here.