The Real Reason Women Are Leaving Your Company

Let’s get this out of the way: The real reason women are leaving your company (and a myriad of others around the world) is not just because they are moms having babies.

Or lack ambition.

In fact, research from the Pew Research Center shows that 57 percent of women surveyed consider ambition to be an essential trait for a leader; while a fully 63 percent of Millennial women and 61 percent of Gen X have the same opinion.

And yet, they are leaving.

As documented in LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace 2017, 17 percent of women are leaving their jobs in mid-career, which, for a company of 500, represent a loss of 85 employees. Those numbers should concern us all.

As I wrote in my book, #WomenAdvance, women hold 85% of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforce, and there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet, there are still barriers to women who want to rise to the top of today’s most successful corporations.

So, what’s going on?

A survey published by ICEDR finds that women around age 30 cite pay, lack of learning and development, and a shortage of meaningful work as the primary reasons they leave organizations. Not motherhood.

I hear other reasons too, in my women advancement coaching programs. The participants describe having to work harder to get promoted–and fear having to work harder at their job once promoted.

But what they need to do is to work smarter not harder.

And, it’s not that they are less ambitious than men are. In fact, according to a survey from Accenture, “…moms who return to work after having a child are just as ambitious as women without kids–or, in some cases, even more ambitious,” states Maricar Santos, writing for Working Mother.

Women are leaving your company mid-career because they are being paid less, they are not being offered development opportunities to help them move ahead, and they don’t find the work meaningful enough to sustain them. They leave, looking for something better.

Here’s what I would tell you

Understand that, while women may express more comfort in an individual contributor role, they may also be interested in a management or leadership role. Make sure your company offers the right tools for new managers, so it’s not so daunting. And make sure their managers know how to coach them on learning new skills and find the right career path.

Understand that the atmosphere at work might not feel good. If your leadership team is male-dominated, and those males aren’t used to including women, a woman simply may not feel comfortable in the organization as she progresses up the ladder. You may need to consciously develop a strategy to help create more diverse management and leadership teams.

There are companies out there who are doing precisely that. The Miller Heiman Group, for example, has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women supports diversity and inclusion at the top and sets the example for the whole company.

And finally, you may not necessarily have a hostile environment or an overt discrimination problem, but you may have differences in communications styles. Men and women communicate differently, and this can cause misunderstanding, downtime, and hurt productivity.

You may be able to help by mentoring the men in your organization and showing them how to communicate with women more effectively. If men can start understanding women and move in their direction, too, it’s not such an energy suck.

Women are excited to contribute to your workforce, they work hard, and will be excellent advocates if your company gets it right. Promote diversity. Support inclusion. Win!

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com 

Photo: rawpixel.com from Pexels

5 Tips for Rocking Entrepreneurial Work-Life Balance

work life balance

Many of us wonder about work-life balance and how to achieve it. And, even imagine rocking entrepreneurial work-life balance. I did a study on work-life balance with women and men. Equally, they wanted more work-life balance, but the differences were striking: Men who had partners and families were more satisfied in their career. Women who had partners and families were less satisfied. Single men, less satisfied in their career, single women were more satisfied.

This data makes sense to me and is backed up by a statistic Sheryl Sandberg cited in a speech given recently at Salesforce: Women still do two times the amount of housework men do, and three times the amount of childcare. If women have families and a job, they are working much more. For men, it seems it’s almost the opposite.

So what happens when women want it all?

I was chatting informally with one of my favorite people, and superstar entrepreneurs, Courtney Klein, recently. Courtney is Co-Founder and CEO of SEED SPOT, an organization designed to educate, accelerate, and invest in entrepreneurs who are creating solutions to social problems.

SEED SPOT ranks as one of the “Top 20 Accelerators in the World” by Gust and one of the “Top 3 social impact incubators in the United States” by UBI Global and Cisco. SEED SPOT also holds an Emmy for their partnership with Univision serving Latino entrepreneurs.

Courtney is incredibly professionally successful; she has a growing family–and is well-known nationally. I thought you’d find her take on the question of balancing it all as an entrepreneur helpful.

Melissa: “Courtney, you’ve said that women ask you regularly about running a company and having a family at the same time. What’s your answer?”

Courtney: “When I was pregnant with my first child, a mentor said, ‘The best thing you can do for your daughter is to be the best version of yourself.’

And, as a small human was kicking inside of me, I realized that being the best version of myself meant uniting my identities as a mom–and CEO. After 200 flights with my daughter before she turned two, while still learning, I have learned a lot.

I often traveled with a relative and had nannies able to be on-call in seven cities. My daughter sat on stages with me at big conferences, played on my lap while I was on calls, and attended board meetings in her stroller with her favorite toy in hand. The benefit to the daily juggling act was that we never spent a day apart.

The gift of being an entrepreneur is that you get to make your own rules. The challenge is that you often have to create a new norm – really, a new normal. 

Walking into a donor meeting with unrecognizable baby gunk on my sleeve was a common occurrence, but if I didn’t react, neither did they. If folks were shocked that my morning coffee was transported by stroller, I didn’t let it bother me, and they soon forgot about it as well. If my daughter cried and I walked out to nurse her, I simply explained that her hunger was of higher priority than anything else in the room.

This was the way it was; this was the way it was going to be. People accepted it.

There is no one-size-fits-all model. There is no scoring system for how to be a good mom, or a good entrepreneur, or both. But the opportunity we have is to carve our own path for what our identities look like together, not separate.”

Tip: Unite your identities instead of separating them 

Melissa: “There is so much we could learn from you about social entrepreneurship, founding a company, growing a business, but is there something specific female founders need to consider?”

Courtney: “The startup culture is still super patriarchal – if one statistic alone tells the story it is that less than 3 percent of venture capital goes to women. It’s even less for founders of color.

If entrepreneurs play into a patriarchal startup culture system – it will never change. At SEED SPOT we have a huge focus on diversity and inclusion, 49% of our alumni are female founders.

We owe it to our children, the next generation of innovators, to set a new narrative for what an equitable startup culture looks like.

And the new narrative of equitable startup culture must be led by entrepreneurs who don’t take the passing sexual comment as casual, slam those who ask for integrity in exchange for capital, and demand equal pay for themselves and those on their team.”

Tip: Make the new rules for what an equitable startup culture looks like 

Melissa: “My research has shown that men want work-life balance just as much as women but they don’t discuss it as openly. What’s your take on why men don’t seem to worry about ‘balancing it all’?”

Courtney: “I think that’s the predominant cultural narrative in America, but I don’t think it’s actually true. The desire to balance it all has nothing to do with gender; it has everything to do with choice.

If bucking norms makes you uncomfortable, you are going to have an impossible time as an entrepreneur. And if you conform to norms and succeed, it only perpetuates the problem and digs a deeper trench for future generations to climb out of.”

Tip: Get comfortable bucking the norms, the next generation needs to witness a new model

Melissa: “What are some of the unspoken issues that women don’t talk about openly when it comes to balancing personal and business life?” 

Courtney: “It saddens me how many women that want to have a family don’t for fear they can’t do it or will lose their identity if they do. As entrepreneurs, we have the unique advantage of sculpting our own identities. And that can make a difference not only in our own lives but in the lives of women everywhere.

Tip: Social modeling matters – share your tips, tricks and lessons learned.

And, as Courtney pointed out in our conversation, “Sometimes it’s about rocking the compression socks at 30,000 feet, or discreetly muting a conference call button while nursing, or juggling a network of nannies in cities across the country. And, other times it’s about dealing with someone who isn’t quite there in terms of understanding your identity as a female entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur/mom. Sometimes it’s about sharing a resource, or a network, or a hug.”

Tip: Don’t let fear defeat you. Reach out to those doing it for support. 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

Photo: Austin Neill on Unsplash.

Work-Life Balance is an Outdated Concept, So What Now?

Beach chairs on the evening sea coast.

Work-life balance became a buzzword a couple of decades ago. Everywhere you turned there were presentations, articles and self-proclaimed “experts” all promising to help the overworked find a better balance.

The thing is, I’m not so sure work and life are really separate concepts anymore.

More and more, work and life are intertwined, especially when working remotely, or traveling for work. And to increase engagement, more companies are making workplaces feel like “home.” “Work-Life Integration” is probably a more accurate term today, and people work every day to try to do this well. It isn’t as much a balancing act as it is an act of acceptance that balance doesn’t exist. Something will always have to give; your time in the office, your kid’s soccer game, time with your partner, or travel abroad. If you want successful work-life integration, you will need to sacrifice something.

Sure, there are still the no-holds-barred leaders out there whose commitment to work eclipses everything else and there are those who think that’s the way it has to be if you want to be successful. Some of these people might even be happy with their life this way, who are we to judge? Many experts today still proclaim it is possible to have it all. However, what exactly does “all” mean?

As leaders, we need to become aware of what’s important to us and the individuals in our team, we need to set an example, be a role model, and help them create the right situation and strategy for themselves. In my opinion, work-life integration is about setting boundaries. If you clarify what you want, create a plan, set boundaries, and manage it well, fulfillment in one’s personal and professional lives can easily be a reality.

It’s all about boundaries.

To achieve life balance, you have to set these boundaries both in your personal life and your work life. You’ll want to make deliberate decisions about what’s going to be the priority. And it has to go both ways to work out. At work, we often have to respond instantly to crises and sudden situations. Then again, sometimes your personal life is more important—your preschooler is in a theater production, a parent is diagnosed with an illness, or your eldest is graduating from law school.

The fact is, when a situation with enough importance emerges (in business or life), we make time. And you know what? The world doesn’t end. This just shows that having boundaries and stepping away is possible. Planning is key and with proper boundaries in place, it becomes easier to give attention to all areas of your life. (Nigel Marsh has a wonderful TedTalk on boundaries.)

Here are five steps to creating excellent work-life integration for yourself and your team. Share these steps with those you manage and hold a conversation about their relevance:

Define “balance.” First, you have to know what you want out of life, then you can create a clear plan to achieve those goals. If working a lot right now is important for your career growth, then that’s ok. If spending more time with your partner is a priority for your relationship, then do that. Maybe your kids need more or less attention at this point in their lives.

Communicate proactively. In some ways, this goes hand-in-hand with the above point. Talk to your family and significant other about what’s coming up on the calendar at work and speak with your team about what types of personal situations may require your attention no matter what. This can help avoid partner, manager or team resentment when various life or work events arise.

Know your own resilience level. You may be the type who can sleep little and work a lot. Or you might require eight hours and need to let your brain rest in between productive spurts of work. Maybe you burn out without regular vacation time or maybe work gives you so much energy, you don’t need many holidays. Listen to what your body and mind need and honor that.

Walk the talk. Don’t preach work-life integration and then send emails in the middle of the night, regularly stay late at the office, and text your team members at off hours. Managers are often unaware how their own behavior unintentionally sets the standard for the team. People may feel they have to respond in the middle of the night, stay late until the boss leaves, etc.

Introduce your personal life into your work life. Back in the day, talking about your personal life at work was a big no-no, but now those walls are coming down. You see more and more amusing family anecdotes or personal stop-and-think moments being integrated into presentations and speeches. The more you make your workplace feel like home (as much as your company will allow), the more balanced you’ll feel at work.

Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage says, “When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive.” The idea of work-life integration isn’t just corporate lip service anymore, but it isn’t really about having perfect balance either. It’s about creating an ideal situation for yourself – accepted at home and at work – so that you can thrive both personally and professionally.

For a workshop, webinar, or speaking engagement on How to Set Boundaries and Be Happier in Life and Work, contact Melissa.

A version of this post was first published here.

 

Five Friday Highlights: Hubris, Humility, and Stress

Work Stress

As I have traveled to Germany recently, conducted workshops for LinkedIn, and continued developing my exclusive coaching program for female executives, I have been thinking about gender diversity, work stress, living conditions, and the difference between success and failure. These five posts each touch on those topics from various angles.

Why VC’s Aren’t Funding Women-Led Startups from Knowledge@Wharton raises realistic and honest questions about how women can have a more equitable share of VC funding. It’s sad to note that in 2016 I can attest to the fact that the male hubris/female humility effect is still asserting itself throughout the tech world. A quote from Ethan Mollick: “If entrepreneurship is based in part on hubris, [the] male hubris, female humility effect tells us something about why women are less likely to do start-ups.”

Topics like “humility” and “confidence” lead me to ponder what talent acquisition specialists really focus on when looking for a perfect fit for their organization. 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence Is One Of The Fastest-Growing Job Skills from Fast Company contends that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ! The article outlines seven reasons emotional intelligence is considered so valuable. One of my favorites is the fact that emotionally intelligent people are more open to feedback.

14 Inspiring Habits of Successful Digital Entrepreneurs from Cox Business’s Blue was quite the thorough inventory of what it takes to be a successful digital entrepreneur. These “inspiring habits” apply to success outside the digital realm as well. My favorite (of course) is think globalDigital entrepreneurs have a mindset that isn’t restricted by geopolitical borders. They understand that the noise is greater but the niches are larger. Because they are global.

I also try to keep my finger on the pulse of what workers of all generations are doing to survive. Where are they living? How are they spending their disposable income? How do they integrate work and life? This one reflects a trend that speaks both to values and the current economy: For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds from the The Pew Research Center. The category “share living with spouse or partner” continues to fall, according to the study, which states, “This turn of events is fueled primarily by the dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35.”

Finally, no matter what generational demographic you fall into, stress at work has to happen to you at least occasionally! There was a great suggestion and a fresh angle in Want to Decrease Your Stress at Work? Encourage Your Coworkers from Forbes. Citing research that demonstrates how encouraging coworkers can reduce stress, the article continues, “In addition to the brain benefits and reduced stress that result from supporting your colleagues, doing so will help create a culture where your coworkers can lean on one another and encourage each other in stressful tasks.”

And who doesn’t want less stress and more encouragement? I encourage you to let me know what reading has made a difference for you recently. Email me with your recommendations!

Image Credit: 123rf/Ion Chiosea

Are We Hypocrites?: A Discussion about Materialism and Mindfulness

Not long ago I was in Singapore and bumped into a long line stretching around the corner. The excitement of whatever these people were waiting for pulsed through the streets of the city. What was it? The latest Louis Vuitton bag. Now, if I had followed some of these people after they bought their bag, I probably would see them stuff lululemon pants and yoga mats into it and end up at a yoga studio or meditation course.

This got me thinking. Is this global phenomenon of materialism and mindfulness—lusting over material objects yet learning exercises to be centered, conscious, and mindful—a contradiction? Do we find the same sense of pleasure or inner-peace by achieving a “live in the moment attitude” as we do coveting the newest Prada sunglasses?

In the workplace, everyone’s talking about compassion, transparency, ethics, and conscious business. But in the same breath, they’re talking about the latest iPhone or newest Gucci shoe line. There’s a mass surge for materialism worldwide, particularly in what I call the emerged markets such as Russia, China or the United Arab Emirates, where buying name brands gives the appearance of having success and status and therefore gains the respect of others.

At the same time, there’s a mass surge for mindfulness, workplace wellness, social responsibility, and social consciousness. People are taking work-life balance courses and more businesses are holding workplace yoga and meditation sessions to help employees get in touch with their inner-selves and heal the mind and body. But as soon as we step off the mat, we’re back to trying to keep up with the latest consumer trends.

I find it odd how materialism and mindfulness seem to coexist so peacefully. I grew up in a generation where, if you practiced yoga, you weren’t wearing $200 pants. Your sweats had holes in them because what you were wearing didn’t matter. What you were doing did. Eating organic meant eating something grown in your backyard—not leaving your whole paycheck at Whole Foods.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy beautiful things and name brands as much as the next person. And I’m not afraid to tell you that I waited hours for my new iPhone not because I needed it but because I wanted it. But I don’t think these external things define who I am or give me a sense of inner-peace. So why do we need to practice both materialism and mindfulness?

While I may see these acts as running counter to one another, maybe I’m missing something and I want to hear from you:

Do you see materialism and mindfulness as contradictory?

If you do, what do you think would remedy this contradiction, or dare I say, hypocrisy?

If you don’t see it as contradictory, where do you think we’ll be in twenty years? Where will materialism and consumerism be then? What about mindfulness?

Fotolia: kikkerdirk

Five Friday Highlights: Mindfulness and Happiness

Gender Parity

I just returned from a great trip to Buenos Aires, working with women at SAP on advancement strategies. The group was energetic, positive, and receptive to learning. We enjoyed each other’s company and I feel positive these women will apply what they learned!

This week, I’m stepping back from the cultural observation to focus on selections that are more universal in nature. We are always wise to be continuous learners, about work and life in general.

Who doesn’t want to be happy and successful? In Want to Be Happy and Successful? Brene Brown Says Do This, I loved the seven recommendations shared by Dr. Brown. I was especially struck by “It is so important to feel who we are without needing material goods or hobbies to validate ourselves.” So true!

Sometimes, when I read articles like the one referenced above, I am grateful to have had enough life experience to know why advice like “it is important to feel who we are” is so applicable. Although I don’t think it makes sense to assume millennials “don’t get it” regarding many pieces of life advice, I do agree there are some lessons you can only  learn by living them. Maybe 8 Habits That Make Millennials Stressed, Anxious and Unproductive can at least help a millennial or two bypass the worst of it. One of the best pieces of advice is to avoid “hanging out with anxious people.” It has certainly been true for  me. We absorb the vibes we surround ourselves with.

We absorb the vibes we surround ourselves with. {TWEET THIS}

When I read Workplace Stress:  Do You Know Where it Comes From?, I was intrigued by a few of the suggestions. I especially keep turning this proposed strategy for managing workplace stress over in my mind: “Look for opportunities to learn skills or take on more responsibility.” While it seems counterintuitive to take on MORE when you’re already feeling stressed, perhaps for some people, additional responsibility that is more aligned with their skill set may actually reduce stress.

Speaking of taking on responsibility, none of the entrepreneurs featured in 20 Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Most Important Lesson They Learned in Their 20s avoided taking on massive amounts of it. Each of them learned valuable lessons along the way. This one is still kicking around in my mind: “You can never fire anyone too soon.” While the reference is to being decisive, I suspect part of that lesson is “you have to hire the right people in the first place.”

No matter what your generation or geography, I am a strong believer in the power of mindfulness. In Musts for Being Mindfully Present, Scott Mautz reminds readers that mindfulness “reduces aggression because the ego doesn’t come into play as you’re focusing on what’s in front of you, not what it says.” We could all do with less aggression in the world, right?


On a closing note, I am thrilled to announce that I have been accepted by Inc. as a regular contributor! I will be writing on topics related to cultural awareness and global business. It’s all extremely exciting and I’ll be looking forward to sharing my articles with you!

inc logo melissa

 

Are You Slacking On Vacation?

Beach chairs on the evening sea coast.

Every year, I do something astonishing. I go on vacation.

But not a vacation where I am checking my phone on a hike in the woods or trying to see my laptop screen under the hot sun with my toes in the sand.

I am talking about a real vacation—where I leave my computer behind and don’t check email for a week. It was challenging at first but now I realize that I am much better at my job for making this commitment to myself—if just for a week.

People around the world view and use vacation differently. In Europe, for example, time off is sacred. Most of the continent shuts down in August while residents head to beaches for one last hurrah of fun with loved ones before returning to school and work. According to Expedia’s 2014 Vacation Deprivation Study, Europeans took on average 28 days of vacation a year. Compare that to Canadians who took an average of 15. Many residents of Asian countries earned an average of 19 days off, but only took 14. Mexicans only took 12 of 15 days. Those in the U.S. only took an average of 14 days off leaving one vacation day on the table.

This is despite the study finding 80 percent of global workers associate vacationing with overall happiness “a great deal or a fair amount.” What’s more, studies show workers who take time off are more productive after their batteries are recharged.

Vacation in general is really important because it can stimulate creativity. It rests the mind. It rests the body. And, it is very good for overall health and mental capacity. It can enable you to think clearly and be more productive when you come back to work.

So, with this in mind, here are six tips to maximize your vacation.

Take as long as you possibly can in one stint. It takes two days to decompress, a couple days to really get into it, and a couple days to come out of vacation. A three day vacation is going to stunt your ability to decompress. Take as long as you can take in one go.

Go someplace that is really relaxing. Be in nature. Head to the ocean or the woods. Go someplace that has less stimulation than at home or in a city.

Turn off devices. If you are big on social media, delete apps. Turn off your email. Maybe even turn off your phone entirely. Keep your laptop at home. If you must, have a small chunk of time every few days to check email and then shut it all down again so you can keep your mind on relaxing and getting new impulses and inputs.

Take the opportunity to learn something new. This could be a new sport, or an aspect of a new culture such as cuisine. Do something that you haven’t done before to stimulate your brain in a new way—particularly something on the creative side to develop capacity in your left brain. This will strengthen your ability to be successful in what you are doing currently because it gives you a perspective on what your core competencies and strengths are by learning something new.

Sleep and eat well. Try to minimize the partying too much. Some partying, of course, is fun. But try to make sure that you are sleeping, eating and exercising well so that you are really taking care of your body while you are away. That will certainly help you come back feeling much more rested.

Do some journaling or drawing. These are two ways that can really stimulate the brain to be more present and mindful, and have more success in allowing new inputs in and quieting the mind.

If it helps, think of vacation as a requirement for doing your job well. I know time off has helped me and I feel certain it will help you.