Why Not Investing In Women Leaders In The Workplace Is A Very Expensive Mistake

I have been banging on about women in the workplace for yonks and was rather hoping that the latest women in the workplace report for 2022 was going to say something different but alas, it is more of the same if not worse. Lean In and Mckinsey & Company have been producing this report for a few years now and I always anticipate its release, hoping for some sort of breakthrough. 


Call me an optimist but someone has got to hope that half of the human population engaged in the workforce are going to be taken seriously at some point. I wouldn’t mind but this is a very important half as well. Why do I say that?


The report shows that more women do IMPORTANT work than men, in fact women are twice as likely to engage in this important work. What am I calling important work?: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work. This work is what makes workplaces tolerable and maintains the talent pipeline and reduces retention rates. 


What is the cost to these women of doing this work? It mostly goes unnoticed and unrecognised so it leads to burnout for them as they are doing their day job plus this unrecognised work. 40% of women say this work is not recognised in their performance reviews. How shocking is that?


While the women are busy burning themselves out (43% of women compared to 31% of men) doing this important but unrecognised work, the men are busy doing recognised work and getting promoted past the women. So what happens? The women leave and now we have the ‘Great Breakup’ that everyone is going on about.


The danger about these women leaving the workplace and looking for recognition elsewhere is who is going to take on that DEI work? Who is going to make sure that well-being in the workplace is not just a tick-box exercise? Incidentally, the men are also affected when well-being is compromised and yet that job is predominantly left to the women who naturally care about this sort of stuff.


Where this becomes expensive is when we have the complication of the ‘broken rung’. This is where women drop off at an alarming rate just before they step into management roles. As nature will have it, this is when the biological clock for women starts ticking loudly so they start looking for more supportive workplaces or give up on work altogether. Some decide life is too short to live in constant burnout, believe me, I coach these women all the time, burnout is real and their children pay the price.


Let me build up the picture for you:

  • Senior women are leaving at record rates: The study shows that for every woman that gets promoted to senior level, two senior women are choosing to leave. So this is net loss at the top.
  • This is compounded with less women getting past the broken rung to get to the top.
  • This means we have even less women at the top to do the important DEI work that will keep more women in the workplace.
  • This leads to low staff retention rates which is very expensive


This is not a pretty picture. In fact, it is alarming considering that a lot of people like me have been working really hard to bring this issue to light. 


International Women’s day is only three months away. I will put on my posh frocks and pontificate about equality for women in countless workplaces all over again but it is beginning to feel like groundhog day.


Like I said, I am an optimist. The silver lining is that those women leaving at the top are leaving in search of workplaces with more supportive practices so all is not lost. Hopefully, at some point, there will be a tipping point, organisations will realise that it makes more financial sense to invest in their women and keep them. They do important work and save you money. 


If you are a working mother and you believe women in the workplace still don’t get the recognition they deserve, grab a chat with me here. If you want to hear more from me, you might be interested in my FREE masterclass – register here to watch anytime.