Last few years have shed a brighter light on the experience of women at work: we exhaustedwe underpaidand we are constantly fighting for fundamental rights. In fact, we are in the depths of “she-cession” :Onot in three women want to change careers or leave their jobs entirely, joining the millions of women who have already quit over the past few years.
With a global labor shortage and care crisis By continuing to strain the workforce, smart leaders will invest in reversing the concession by making structural changes to the way we work, emphasizing flexibility. Failure to do so will push more women to their limits and leave their jobs. But it’s not the women that break, it’s the system. And 2023 will be the year we start fixing that.
There is no doubt that flexibility matters. When it comes to defining job satisfaction, research Slack’s Future Forum consortium shows that flexibility comes second to rewards. This is especially true for parents, especially working mothers. Today, 83 percent of working moms prefer a flexible location model.
But all too often the talk of flexibility is limited to “number of days in the office.” In 2023, the meaning of flexibility will go beyond where you work to when you are working. Ninety-five percent of office workers want flexibility in their schedules—more choice in how they organize their day, short of casual meetings outside the office—and most of them don’t get that opportunity today. When the need for flexibility is clear and turnover levels are high, leaders will give employees more choice in how they work and move away from the traditional, outdated 9 to 5 performance model.
This shift to flexibility has many benefits: we are seeing significant improvements for women professionals when it comes to a sense of belonging, job satisfaction, and work-life flexibility. But proximity bias — the favoritism of people who work nearby in the office — is a looming risk that leaders must actively deny. Why? Our research shows that women, employees of color, and working mothers are more likely to want to continue working flexible hours, while males, white employees, and non-caregivers are more likely to return to the office full-time. If left unchecked and deliberate action taken, inequalities in the workplace can worsen, exacerbating existing inequalities.
To combat proximity bias, executives will increasingly learn how employee performance is measured during promotion reviews and feedback loops. Research shows that men much more often receive feedback based on the results achieved, while women’s assessments are more likely to be based on personal qualities. In 2023, a growing number of managers will be retrained to focus on the results that employees produce, rather than outdated measures of work ethic and commitment, such as “first in and last out.” When they get this right, companies will begin to see the impact of their ability to attract and retain talent.
I hope we are finally ready to create a more equal and representative workforce by truly fixing a system that has always been broken. As a child, I watched my immigrant mother constantly compromise between raising children and work, and because of the financial needs of our extended family, work often won out. I remember how painful this election was for her, and at the end of her 40-year career, she advised me: “No matter how hard you work, trying to [to break the glass ceiling] not worth it.”
The last two years have proven that change is possible as millions of people have fundamentally changed the way they work. But to achieve systemic change, leaders must rethink how they hire, evaluate and promote women. And it’s time to change the system.