Before starting on the Xec, I had never thought of myself as a leader. Over the duration of the course, I have understood that a lot of this belief was tied to a very narrow view of leadership and feeling like my qualities do not match up to those of the “typical leader” who are often at the top of our institutions.
I now realise that my view of a “typical leader” was grounded in an archaic and top-down model that is very far from what I aspire to.
Jacinda Arden’s resignation speech really drove this home for me. Her departing words encapsulated an honesty, transparency and commitment to using her platform for good that is often missing from political leaders.
Arden’s resignation is part of a wider phenomenon of women leaving their roles and highlights how often institutions fail to create environments that nurture leaders.
More women in leadership than ever before are switching jobs and at higher rates than men. McKinsey and LeanIn.Org’s Women in the Workplace report surveyed 40,000 employees from over 300 organisations and found that 10.5% of women are leaving their companies compared to 9% of men.
So why do leaders leave?
The report points to entrenched bias that means women are overlooked for promotions, experience microaggressions, are overworked and under-recognised. Ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability all serve to compound these experiences.
Findings also point to the failure by companies to create a supportive culture that prioritises flexibility, employee wellbeing and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Women in director positions also face barriers and a persistent pressure to take on stereotypical “masculine traits” of directness and competence and downplay “feminine traits” of warmth and empathy. This is called the “warmth confidence line” according to the research authors, and hampers female board directors’ ability to express their views and limits their contribution.
How can companies retain diverse talent?
Here are three ways that companies can create inclusive environments that will enable people to thrive:
Culture Matters – Diversity might be one of your company values but it won’t become a reality until DEI is lived and breathed. Respect, transparency and equity must show up in a company’s culture every single day.
Representation Counts – Representation at all levels is crucial to retention. Can’t see someone who looks like you in the C-Suite? It is unlikely you will feel motivated to stick around for long.
Walk the Talk – If you say you care then show it. Back up your words with action and champion DEI within and outside the walls of your organisation. Facilitate meaningful initiatives that will empower people.
Making DEI a priority and breaking down barriers should be the goal of every company. I have felt the most empowered and engaged when I am in an environment where everyone’s contributions count. It is only by creating diverse and inclusive workplaces that we can enable people to achieve their potential.
Connect with Malini Parkash on Linkedin.
Malini was awarded a place on The Xec. Leadership Scheme for UK-based Black, Asian, Mixed Race and Ethnic Minority PR and comms pros. She will be mentored by Sophie Parker, Global Brand Communications and PR Consultant.