Backward Progress for Women @ Work

I have so many thoughts, feelings, questions right now, I’m going to share them with you. But really, I want to hear from you. I want to know what your thoughts, questions, and responses are to what I’m about to share with you – especially because I know for many of you, you’re in it. You’re either experiencing it or you’re firsthand observing it.

And here’s where this is all stemming from. By the way, buckle in, this is going to be a little bit longer video than I typically do, and I’m coming in a little hot. This is stemming from Deloitte’s Women in the Workplace report, it just was released for 2024. And a big finding that stood out to me is the fact that more women left the workplace in 2023 than they had for the previous two years combined.

That was shocking to me.

I was really hoping we were on more of the plateau, we weren’t going to see that. But, what also really hit me are just a couple of things. One, we’re seeing that continued trend with women taking on more household and childcare responsibilities, even when both partners work. We are also continuing to see more women taking on adult care, right? Taking care of aging parents; we’ve got the sandwich generation in the workplace.

Stress levels are continuing to rise; there was an increase, again, in stress. But something new that I saw was this non-inclusive behavior that women are experiencing. For example, being left out of particular conversations, particular meetings, or opportunities for promotion. And here’s where my head starts to spin on this.

When I was in corporate in 2013, experiencing my burnout and those high levels of stress, I really felt like one of the solutions was for me to work from home on Friday’s. This is before anybody was really doing hybrid or fully remote. And so now, as I fast forward a decade later, I think that there have been so many women through the course of those years who felt like me – that if they could just have flexibility, if they could just work from home, all of their stress and these things of responsibility and all of these true challenges will be resolved with that.

So now, not necessarily based on good circumstances, this has been handed to a lot of women. And look, I understand that now we’ve got mandated returns to the office, I understand that. But I’m just talking about for those who still currently have some flexibility in their schedule, again, whether it’s remote or hybrid. My concern is that the approach has been, “Great, now I finally have this. Everything is going to be solved for me, I am expecting the stress to go away, all of this.”

And not only is it not going away, but we’re seeing this uptick in increased stress, increased childcare responsibilities, more women leaving the workplace, and now we’re going to throw on top of it non-inclusive behaviors, missing out on the opportunities. This is alarming to me and really where I want to throw it out to you.

How I think about it is that when I asked to work from home on Friday’s, I set a foundation in two different ways. One, my foundation was not to take on more household and childcare responsibilities. It was in order to say, “Hey, I’m going to get a little bit more time back, so I’m going to take my current responsibilities and be more efficient and effective with them.” I didn’t raise my hand and say, “Hi Matt (my husband), I’m home on Fridays, could you give me more stuff to do?”

No. So I’m going to challenge that that may be one part of it. The second thing that I did to set myself up for success is that I made sure I was still highly visible. I only worked from home one day a week, so for those of you who’ve gone from five days in the office to now five days at home, you may want to reconsider that. I highly encourage you, if it were me, I would not be fully remote.

I would figure out a way, whatever that cadence is, to make sure I am in the office, being seen at some point. And then really maximizing that time when you are in the office, to make sure that you’re getting in front of the right people, that you are highly visible. I also set myself up for success on those Friday’s when I worked from home; I was still on e-mail and addressing tasks in the same amount of time or frame of time that I had before.

My goal was to make sure that my team, my manager, anybody else I interacted with, my clients, could not feel as if I wasn’t in the office like I had been. So I’m really curious, because again, I think we’ve entered into a risky situation, where too many women thought the answer to all of their problems was to work from home. And they have now self-created a situation where they have more responsibilities, more stress, and now they’re also missing out on opportunities professionally.

What are your thoughts? I want to hear, comment below. Email me, I truly want to understand where this is at. Thank you for taking an extra couple of minutes to join me, and just think through this recent development.