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What Women Want to Thrive at Work

After 20 months of working through the pandemic, women are exhausted, overwhelmed, sick of school closings, ready to burn our masks in a giant bonfire. Millions of us have left or been forced out of the workforce altogether. We are now at a 33-year-low in female employment.

Companies have gone back and forth on how and when they will bring their remote employees back into the office. We’ve got news for them: Expecting women to return to pre-pandemic ‘normalcy’ isn’t going to fly.

In August and September, just as the fourth COVID wave peaked, Watermark partnered with Vox Media to conduct an important survey. We knew anecdotally that many women were thinking differently about their careers, but we wanted data. Most important, we wanted to hear directly from women about how they would design the future of work.

Among our top findings:

  • Women have enthusiastically endorsed remote and hybrid work — and many would rather switch jobs than return to a grinding daily commute.
  • The most experienced women have suffered disproportionately from layoffs and unplanned retirements. That means fewer women in the pipeline for C-suite jobs, and fewer senior women to mentor younger colleagues.
  • Women of color are even less enthusiastic about returning to the in-person office than white women. Despite the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at many companies, a higher proportion of BIPOC women distrust whether these efforts will truly help them advance. Many said that remote work meant relief from daily micro-aggressions.
  • The focus on mental health and wellness isn’t going away — but companies’ mental health programs might not be the best solution. Women are asking for control over their schedules and time to recharge in their own way.

These findings should make companies take a close look at the workplace norms and policies that lead to burnout and attrition. While many women have found ways to persevere and even make career gains during this time, most say they’re not getting the support they need to thrive. We face a looming talent drain — and that should worry us all.

Along with studies such as Lean In & McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Report, this research underscores the opportunity that we have as women in positions of power: to learn from each others’ experiences and focus on modeling a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable way to work. Together we can chart a path to better support the advancement of women, a world where we can all succeed.

Read the full research results in our whitepaper.

This article was originally published here.

Peggy Northrop

Peggy Northrop is CEO of Watermark, a nonprofit membership organization focused on redefining leadership. Peggy joined Watermark in February 2020. A media consultant, communications expert, advisor and entrepreneur, Peggy spent the first two decades of her career as an award-winning editor in New York City, where she held senior editorial positions at some of the most iconic names in women’s media, including Vogue, Glamour and Real Simple, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of More and Global Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest. She returned to the Bay Area in 2013 to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Sunset Publishing, and in the same year co-founded Shebooks, an e-book company devoted to publishing stories by and for women. Peggy is an advisor and investor with Portfolia, which creates investment funds designed for women to back the companies they want to see in the world. She is also a mentor with SHE-CAN, the educational organization that trains the next generation of female leaders in post-genocide countries. She currently serves on the board of directors of Washington & Jefferson College.

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