In our ‘From Retain to Recognise’ series of articles my aim has been to share the most pivotal insights gained from the 2017-2019 Women’s Sat Nav to Success Research Surveys to accelerate the progress of inclusive gender balance and reduce the gender pay gap, in the light of the lack of clarity about what really works, and the pitiful lack of investment by most organisations in this strategic imperative.
If you can’t do much, what should you focus on to make immediate, measurable and sustainable change?
In this article I’m going to focus on accentuating the positives by sharing 4 strategic enablers of women’s success that already measurably increase engagement and the motivation to progress for high proportions of the women who experience them.
1. Consistently value women’s contributions
If you do nothing else, address this. It’s the hardest to address. However, it has the biggest, and most sustainable payback which extends across the whole organisation.
Our stats: while only 47% of women taking our 2019 survey reported having their contributions consistently valued, 4 in 5 of these said their engagement increased as a direct result and two thirds said it directly increased their motivation to progress.
In 2018, 73% of men reported having their contributions consistently valued. That’s 55% higher than the proportion of women. Imagine the impact on organisations’ performance and the reduction in the gender pay gap if 55% more women had their contributions consistently valued.
‘The more you speak up and your opinion is heard, considered and occasionally acted upon, the more you are likely to do it. There have been periods in my life both work and personally, whereby my opinion has not only been ignored but openly ridiculed. This has a much greater effect than the other way, and can take a long time to reverse.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
‘I feel like I’m pretty courageous when it comes to speaking up – even when I know what I’m going to say isn’t popular. How valued my contribution is really has a deep impact on whether I feel motivated to keep doing that. One of the reasons why I left my prior employer.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
‘I know my contributions are good, informally I get this feedback but formally I am ignored’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
2. Promote challenging and fulfilling work
Funnily enough, dull work doesn’t inspire greater engagement, and if you’re stuck doing it for long enough you lose the belief that you’ll ever have the opportunity to get on, so you stop seeking opportunities.
Yet we know from the gender pay gap data and other measures that women aren’t advancing into bigger roles. We know that fewer women get promoted and that they get promoted more slowly than male peers.
Our stats: only 45% of women reported being ‘totally’ or ‘significantly’ fulfilled at work. However, of that minority, 87% said it increased their engagement and 79% said it increased their motivation to progress.
Staying in your comfort zone is also boring and de-motivating according to qualitative responses to our 2017- 2019 annual surveys. Over two thirds of women reported that they ‘always/usually’ go for it whenever there is, or they can create, an opportunity to stretch beyond their comfort zone. They reported doing this both for more stimulating work and because they recognise that it’s great personal development and experience which should enable their career ambitions to become reality. 67% of these women said stretching beyond their comfort zone directly increased their motivation to progress.
‘Depending on what the situation is, I try to see a positive in being taken out of my comfort zone. If it is challenging, then I try and rise to it and am often surprised at how the outcome is much better than imagined. I definitely find that with each achievement, however small, there is an increase in how I feel about my career progression, my personal fulfilment and ultimately how I feel about the organisation I am working for.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
‘I would love to be in this situation but sadly have no situations around me to grow. When I search and proactively go for anything, it is blocked or not recognised.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
3. Walk the talk on behaviours your organisation says it values
Anyone who has had a relationship knows that when your values clash the relationship is doomed. And it’s the same reality between the values the organisation demonstrates – not just articulates – and the values of individual employees.
Our stats: 80% of the women who said that they were ‘proud’ or ‘comfortable’ with their organisation’s demonstrable behaviour towards stakeholders reported increased engagement as a result. Two thirds of these women said it increased their motivation to progress.
A very distinct feature of this data has been that a values clash is a reason to walk away. We know women over-index on integrity and the qualitative data supports this. If you publish or present a set of values and related behaviours but the reality is a stark contrast (that you have created) then you will lose female talent.
‘My organisation seems to treat customers and suppliers (externals) better than its own employees. The corporate culture is very masculine and exclusionary’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
It will be very interesting to see the stats from this year’s survey given that it has been open through lockdown, as it will given an indication of the vulnerability of organisations who behaved badly during the pandemic and those who behaved well but return to old expectations and habits after people have experienced a more values-based work-style.
‘I left my last employer because I felt deeply uncomfortable about some aspects of the organisation’s behaviour and felt that that behaviour had a negative impact on the likelihood of progressing my career.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
4. Orchestrate and nurture informal supportive workplace relationships
Our stats: more than 4 in 10 women do not have reliable access to colleagues that they can talk to about work challenges. However, for most of those that do, it makes a difference that their organisation benefits from. 84% increase their engagement as a direct result and 72% increase their motivation to progress.
‘Informal support, in the form of mentoring, or trusted colleagues is essential to maintaining engagement and motivation to progress, – it would be really hard, in my opinion, to progress one’s career without the advice, support, guidance and counsel of trusted colleagues, or informal support networks built up over the course of one’s career.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
‘I have one individual who is always there for me, but has limited ability to offer support in work challenges as such as her career path very different.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
‘I have worked from home a lot and I think this has meant I have been slower to develop relationships within the office.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
‘I do have a couple of work friends and mentors to turn to, but I feel like I am being judged for not being ‘happy’ with the little or un-engaging work I am given. It is almost as if it is a privilege for me to be working here, instead of my working here being a privilege to my employer given my extensive experience and high level of academic qualifications.’(2019 Sat Nav to Success Survey)
Contact me if you would like to learn about how to deliver these strategies successfully and affordably.
This article concludes the ‘From Retain to Recognise’ series sharing the findings, implications and route to measurable sustainable progress from The Women’s Sat Nav to Success 2017-2019 annual surveys. I’d like to thank Mandy Garner and workingmums.co.uk, Chloe Ballantyne and LV= and Vikki Sargeant at Siemens for their pioneering, consistent and active support of this research programme.
As we go to press the 2020 Sat Nav to Success Research Survey is still open, so you are welcome to participate (https://womenssatnav.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/2020)
You can book your organisation’s autumn webinar presentation of the 2020 Sat Nav Insights and Fast Track to Success, here.