Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

7 ways we can nurture the next generation of women leaders

As we mark this International Women's Day, let’s remember that developing the next generation of women leaders is on all of us.

As we mark this International Women's Day, let’s remember that developing the next generation of women leaders is on all of us. Image: Getty Images

Becky Frankiewicz
Chief Commercial Officer and President, North America, ManpowerGroup
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Education, Gender and Work

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  • While women are returning to the workplace and participation is rising, stress levels are high and many feel burned out.
  • 67% of women wish that their manager better understood the impact work has on their mental well-being and the weight of the responsibilities they have at home.
  • On International Women's Day and beyond, current leaders should take stock in their own organization of the environment they are creating for the next generation of women leaders.

On this International Women’s Day, we should all ask ourselves one question: how is the next generation of women leaders feeling?

Of course, there will be as many answers as there are women in our organizations. Yet, our data tells us that, while women are returning to the workplace and participation is rising, stress levels are high and many feel burned out. Sixty-seven percent wish that their manager better understood the impact work has on their mental well-being and the weight of the caring responsibilities they have at home.

The last few years have given us a glimpse into the future of work and as leaders, it’s our responsibility to do what I call 'Turn and Pull': look behind us and make sure that we are creating the environment where the next generation of women leaders can fill the shoes of those of us who are fortunate enough to sit in the leader seat.

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7 ways to nurture the next generation of women leaders

Here are seven things — many of which also came up at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year — to consider when it comes to creating the right environment for the next generation of women leaders.

1. Data tells us autonomy goes a long way. Whether that’s choosing to do the school pick-up or finding time to exercise during the day (or both). Women are saying, “we want shared values, skills development and a true work-life blend” and in exchange, they’ll offer their skills, time, engagement and trust to their employer.

2. The pandemic has reminded people that life happens. Family and their health and well-being come first — for women and men. People value being present with their family and care about their health. As the global talent shortage continues to set new records, with 77% of employers saying are having difficulty hiring the skilled talent they need, enabling people to live one life that blends work and home isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s critical to bridging the skills gap.

3. Prioritise the manager. Policies like the 4-day week grab the headlines, yet a supportive and empathetic manager scores high up the list when we asked women what most contributes to their well-being at work. A Friday off won’t shift the needle if the rest of the week is spent with an unsupportive team. According to The New Human Age data, one in three women (vs. 25% of men) wish their manager would better understand the impact of their workload on their mental health. They are willing to walk away if employers fail to meet their needs.

4. Make the office a magnet not a mandate. Speaking ay Davos 2023, Cisco’s Executive Vice President and Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer Francine Katsoudas articulated this perfectly: “The way we do that is by focusing on the work. We make it really clear that for this particular type of work, we're best when we're together. When we tell our people that they come in. They want to feel like the culture works for them. If we are asking them to come in, sit in front of their computer and do e-mail, women and men alike are going to say, ‘I can do that from home.’ And we all know better now.”

5. Trust comes first. Whether the next generation of women leaders is working from home or in the office, a big part of Turn and Pull is providing opportunity with a safety net; a chance to do something new that pushes the comfort zone with the support that the leader has got their back. A key part of this is trust — as Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Founder and President of Women Political Leaders, said at Davos: “You trust people, you trust that they want to do the job and you trust them to do the job. It doesn't matter if they sit at an office desk, or if they sit at home or if they even sit somewhere else. What matters is to get the job done and to deliver on it.”

6. Level the playing field. Women aren’t asking for favors, just a level playing field. Experience tells us that women are often the last to raise their hands for new roles that they might feel unqualified for, while men with the same qualifications might do. We should all be aiming for at least a 50/50 pipeline for growth roles, especially in functions like Finance and IT, which are traditionally dominated by men.

7. Destigmatise conversations around mental wellness. Raise awareness, show some vulnerability and put support in place. Mental health concerns won’t be solved overnight, but we can all share the ways we take care of our mental wellness and physical health. Taking time to look after yourself is not a weakness.

As we mark this International Women's Day, let’s remember that developing the next generation of women leaders is on all of us. We must prioritise creating an environment that supports women's autonomy, work-life blend and mental well-being, and trust them to do the jobs we’ve tasked them with.

Let’s continue to level the playing field and support each other in our personal and professional growth. Together, we can Turn and Pull, and pave the way for the next generation of dynamic leaders.

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