The Wisdom Of Women Leaders As They Forge The Post Pandemic Future
By Alaina Percival
Women have been stepping up in leadership roles, despite the fact that they have been disproportionately economically impacted by the pandemic, losing an estimated $800 billion globally in financial earnings. While the broken rung still exists with women being promoted to manager level 14% less than men, those in leadership positions have been doing more to help their employees, teams, and companies deal with the disruptions of the past year and a half in a positive manner according to a recent McKinsey report.
“It’s very simple: people are the key to success. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of the rest. Support them, challenge them, empower them; create and nurture other leaders.”- Atomic Robot Senior II Consultant and WWCode Leadership Fellow Sierra O’Bryan
Across the board, employees surveyed have rated women in management positions as providing more emotional support, checking in on overall well-being more, and taking actions to accurately assess and prevent employee burnout. This has become particularly important for both employee health and overall company productivity.
Lori L. Wright, Partner & Chair of Technology Practice at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, spoke about her own philosophy of leadership, “Being a good leader is about a desire to serve, not a desire to lead. I approach everyone on my team as a mentor and my job is to help them be the best version of themselves they can be, recognizing that their best self always includes aspects outside of the workplace.”
The McKinsey report goes on to show that women in leadership positions have also been more active in promoting DEI initiatives. Female managers are 6% more likely to engage in informal DEI work and Senior Leaders who are women are 10% more likely to spend a substantial amount of time engaged in these efforts. When looking at Black and LGBTQ+ women those numbers double.
“My team can best support me by being willing to engage me in honest feedback about my growth opportunities as a leader, ” said Lori. “If I’ve made a call that they believe is wrong, or if they believe I am showing unconscious bias, I want them to share that with me so that we can explore it together. It’s a win-win. My teammate feels heard and I’ve had a chance to refine or explain my decision.”
The pandemic has provided ample opportunities for empathetic leaders to demonstrate their ability to care for their employees well beings. Andrea Gallego, Global GAMMA CTO, Managing Director and Partner at Boston ConsulG said, “I’ve been trying to find ways to virtually mimic those ‘water cooler’ conversations with zoom meetings that have no agenda or fun virtual events. We’re even trying a virtual secret Santa this year – should be fun!”
Deepika Rayala, CIO at Yext spoke about her experience, “My team members — each with their own working styles, personal responsibilities, and time zones — are scattered across the globe. They value that I am cognizant of and flexible with their unique needs. We work together to accommodate those needs without compromising our ability to deliver.”
Unfortunately, a lot of the very important emotional labor being exerted by women leaders is going formally unnoticed in evaluations and performance reviews. Their DEI efforts are often considered to be outside the scope of their work, despite the positive benefits they have on employee satisfaction and performance; and they are still promoted at far lower rates than men with representation dropping off significantly for women of color.
This lack of recognition demonstrates a biased deficiency in the traditional methods used to evaluate employees in management positions. While results are important, the ability to be an ally to fellow employees, understand their individual needs and support them, and develop methods to create more satisfied and successful teams is something that can be difficult to measure.
“Since the pandemic began, my leadership team has become more outcome-focused than preoccupied with exactly how and when a task is done. We have also revisited our roles and responsibilities, goals, and ways of working upfront, so everyone on the team, down to the individual contributor, has clarity. When team members realize they are truly seen, heard, and trusted by their leaders, they reciprocate that trust and can use that space to excel.”- Deepika Rayala, CIO Yext
In this time it is more relevant than ever that a great leader is about being a good human being first. Princiya Sequeira, Engineering Manager at Anaconda, defines a great leader in one line – “it is to be able to hold the helm when the sea is not calm.”
When diverse women are recognized, elevated, and celebrated as leaders, industries will benefit from a greater perspective that will allow them to build better teams, achieve greater goals, and more accurately evaluate the talents of their employees. From positions of influence, women will be able to pave the way for this and future generations with policies and support, while also acting as role models to the future.