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The No. 1 thing women really want at work: ‘It boils down to 2 words,’ according to 800 executives

Rising burnout rates, an ongoing childcare crisis and lingering effects of the pandemic have forced thousands of women to reevaluate their relationship with work.

As the CEO and co-founder of Chief, a network focused on supporting and connecting women, I’ve seen how high-performing women have been affected by all these factors.

There’s a huge disconnect between what employers think women need versus what they really want, according to our survey of more than 800 executive women.

We want flexibility and paid family leave so we can manage the disproportionate burden of caregiving. But these policies are no longer seen as “nice to have” benefits — they’re baseline expectations.

So what will really keep women from quitting? It boils down to two words: Value them.

Here’s how:

1. Better practices, not just better policies
It’s not just company policies that define an employee’s work experience, but how managers act and behave as well.

Business leaders need to enforce behaviors that ensure all employees feel they can take advantage of benefits without repercussions.

Offering the option of remote work, for example, doesn’t guarantee that women who take advantage of it won’t be passed over for stretch assignments or be left out of project conversations.

We must champion the women on our teams, whether or not they’re in the room, and make sure that those who are remote or on paid leave don’t get overlooked for growth opportunities.

2. Increased pay
Women who considered leaving their jobs in 2022 are nearly twice as likely to say they want money-related actions from their employer, compared to those who opted to stay.

Forty percent of the women we surveyed said pay transparency is important to their retention, but only 19% said their current workplace practices it.

Women also want more learning and development funds, but just 52% said their employer offers them. Investing in these opportunities could be the catalyst for women to get promoted with more pay, helping to close the gender wage gap.

3. Promotions
Women want more power in the workplace. For many, this comes in the form of a promotion.

Only 25% of C-suite members are women and 5% are women of color. Unsurprisingly, our survey showed that many companies are missing the mark on leadership diversity because they lack long-term action plans.

Instead of one-off promotions, employers need to continuously set and track progress to ensure that promotions are equitable and not succumbing to bias.

Employers should sponsor networking opportunities that help women leverage and expand their power, so that they’re better positioned to lead. One survey participant told us, “Being nominated for an internal program supporting growth and development snowballed into a much bigger opportunity.”

It’s only when we make workplaces work for women leaders that we will see a more equitable and diverse workplace for everyone.

Carolyn Childers is co-founder and CEO of Chief, a network focused on supporting and connecting executive women leaders. Prior, she was SVP of operations at Handy, and led the launch of Soap.com. She began her career in finance, working in investment banking at Deutsche Bank.

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