HR must prioritize the development of women

The urgency of developing female leaders has increased by nearly 20 points since before COVID, according to a recent survey.

Recent economic markers indicate that the country is starting to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, both in health and economic terms.

And as employers set their priorities for the rest of the year, an area many are focusing on, according to a recent survey by global business and executive outplacement and coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., is the need to develop women. leaders.

It has been rated by 93% of business and HR executives as the most critical leadership issue today. Additionally, 88% said “developing leaders with both invisible and visible diversity” is essential after COVID. The survey results were collected online from April 14 to May 7 from nearly 200 employers across various industries and sizes.

“There is no doubt that re-establishing female talent is critical to the recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, and leaders are keenly aware that they need and are actively investing in this representation at their executive levels,” said said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Solidify.

“Without a doubt, re-establishing female talent is critical to recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. – Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

According to the report, a number of economic indicators continue to suggest that women, and women of color in particular, are struggling in the labor market. For example, at the height of the pandemic, nearly 3 million fewer women were employed than before the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, more than half a million fewer black women and 478,000 Latin women under 20 were working in March 2021 compared to March 2020. And there is a lack of women in all management ranks: according to the followed by Challenger, less than 23% of entrants CEOs are women, while only 6% of S&P 500 companies have female CEOs.

And while the need to train women leaders is not new, it has become more important. Seventy-six percent of executives rated it as the most critical issue in a pre-COVID Challenger investigation. The other main issues at the time were “providing critical feedback” (73%), “effective communication” and “problem solving” (72% each) and “strategic sense” (71%).

Related: Why HR Needs to Stop the Clock on Women’s Recession

“Before the pandemic, the #MeToo movement created much-needed dialogue and action around women’s experience in their working lives, so it’s no surprise that a large number of business leaders reported that the Developing women leaders was a critical pre-COVID, as well, “says Challenger. And, with the renewed focus on racial justice and diversity, creating professional opportunities for those voices to be amplified will be imperative for businesses to l ‘to come up.

Of those surveyed, 66% said they are actively developing talent. Of these, the majority (72%) provide internal management training, 64% provide regular feedback and 61% use executive coaching.

“It’s one thing to commit to developing diverse women and leaders,” says Challenger, “but it’s another to actually get the job done. In order to implement these plans, companies must develop and implement policies to create opportunities for talent to move forward. “

The survey also found that, during the pandemic, the top overall issue for executives was “confidence in uncertainty,” selected by 94% of executives; only 30% of executives cited this as important before the pandemic. The other top issues during COVID were “agility” (91%), “effective communication” (90%), “empathy” (89%) and “resilience” (88%).

It should be noted that 33% of leaders considered “empathy” to be “crucial” before the pandemic; this figure now stands at 72%.

Related: These 4 Strategies Will Help Managers Lead With Empathy

Challenger calls this a “great” time for business leaders to inject empathy into their leadership styles.

“Employers will need it badly during the next phase of this pandemic and post-pandemic,” he says, “as their teams deal with how the pandemic, lockdowns and other potential traumas have affected them in the past. during this past year. “

Tom Starner is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer who has covered the HR space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Mara R. Wilmoth