What if Women Executives Were Responsible for Building the New Workplace?

By Andrea Dowding

As a young woman executive in a billion-dollar organization, I can distinctly remember walking out of the office into a dark parking lot 2 hours later than I had hoped.

As I walked toward my car, I felt the weight of the business and anticipated the disappointment of my family waiting at home, all while feeling very alone.

This was a recurring event in my career, and my recurring thought was:

“I must be doing something wrong.
Why can’t I get ALL the rewarding roles in my life in sync?
Executive. Mother. Wife.
I know how to figure things out.
Why is this so hard?”

It was hard.

The truth is… 20 years later. It still is.

Women in the Workplace Pandemic

The pandemic crisis has been extremely difficult for employees. Some feel like they need to be available for work at all hours of the day while others have taken on additional responsibilities due to team members being laid off or furloughed. There is a sense of financial insecurity among employees compounded by their mental health and wellness suffering.

These factors combined have led to a workforce that is dealing with high levels of stress, anxiety, and classic symptoms of burnout. For working parents—and working mothers in particular—these challenges are amplified as they have scrambled to set up classrooms in their homes and find adequate and safe daycare.

Working mothers have historically had their “next shift” start at home AFTER a full day of work outside of the home. In the last year, the support and infrastructure that made work outside the home even possible for women have been disrupted— this includes school, childcare, and even support from family members.

Latina and Black mothers are feeling the challenge of Covid-19 even more than white mothers. Research shows these women are more likely to be their family’s sole breadwinner or to have partners working outside the home during Covid-19. This means the responsibility of childcare and housework is shouldered on Latina and Black mothers up to two times as much as white mothers.

1 in 4 women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable less than a year ago: downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to Covid-19.

Women in the Workplace 2020

The LeanIn.org Women in the Workplace 2020 Report states:

“Due to challenges created by the Covid-19 crisis, as many as two million women are considering taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether.”

This is the highest rate in 5 years, and for the first time in that period, women leaving the workforce outpaces men leaving it.

As a senior-level woman executive in the workplace, I am deeply saddened and concerned by the possibility of losing so many senior-level women and losing the promise of so many future women leaders to guide, influence, and lead companies in Corporate America.

We all should be concerned.

An HBR 2019 research study indicated that women outperform their male counterparts across 17 out of 19 critical leadership skills. Multiple research studies show that when women are well represented at the top, companies are 50 percent more likely to outperform their peers.

Women executives also have a proven track record of advocating for employee-friendly policies and programs and championing racial and gender diversity.

According to the LeanIn.org- Women in the Workplace 2020 Report:

“Over 50 percent of senior-level women say they consistently take a public stand for gender and racial equity at work, compared to roughly 40 percent of senior-level men and they’re more likely to mentor and sponsor other women. 38 percent of senior-level women currently mentor or sponsor one or more women of color, compared to only 23 percent of senior-level men.”

I have personally mentored and sponsored over 40 women during the span of my career simply because there weren’t enough conversations, programs, and policies that supported the needs of a diverse workforce. Conversations were emerging but not fast enough, not often enough, and not at the strategic level to change the culture.

Transformational Solutions to Build-up Women Executives

Corporate America. Corporate Executives. This is Your Unique Moment in Time. This is Your Responsibility.

Progressive companies will figure out how to reimagine the workplace in a way that honors every employee while delivering results.

Progressive executives will figure out how to engage and build the bridge to their key women leaders to understand how to adjust the norms that will help close the work-life gap and continue to deliver results to the business.

The solutions will look different for different organizations, but the questions are the same.

  • What is the cost to your organization if you lose the insights and experience of your current and future key women leaders?
  • How can we address the way that employees work to make it more inclusive, flexible, and sustainable?

Here are a few ways to get started.

Drive Engagement

Initiate real conversations with curiosity, courage, and vulnerability.
Create a safe and inclusive space where women can bring their whole selves to work.

Drive Purpose and Vision

Co-design and collaborate purpose-driven solutions with key women executives and leaders. Educate, equip and empower your management team to drive the vision throughout the entire organization.

Innovate and Strategize

Enlist innovation and creativity to build breakthrough strategies that challenge the norms that aren’t working– Make the bold move!

As we emerge from the pandemic, the choices that companies and their executives make today will have far-reaching effects for both their organizations and their communities for years to come.

What would it look like if Women Executives led the culture and policy change of the New Workplace?

Transformational Change.

Our Mission at Transcend:
We transform executives and the companies they lead.

Our Beliefs at Transcend:
We believe transformation artfully blends data, reflection, action, inspiration, and courage.

Partnering with Transcend provides invaluable support to build the business, engage talent, and navigate change.

We invite you to connect with us for a conversation around transformation and change.

We touched base on just 3 of the 9 essential Executive Competencies:

  • Drive Engagement
  • Drive Purpose and Vision
  • Innovate and Strategize

You can explore all 9 of Transcend’s Essential Executive Competencies by downloading a copy. We guarantee it will be the most impactful resource you read today.

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Andrea Dowding's profile picture.

Andrea Dowding

Senior Executive Coach

My coaching style is a combination of observing, clarifying, and challenging while providing relevant and affirming feedback. With a background in appreciative inquiry, I can skillfully challenge in a comfortable way that quickly cuts to the core strengths that need amplified or opportunity areas that need addressed to move forward. Being part of an executive’s transformational journey and adding value to the process is a big part of my purpose.

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