Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve all learned a tremendous amount. We’ve evolved as individuals and as organizations, sometimes as a cause of circumstance and necessity, but in many ways, the time has forced us to be more intentional about our organizational practices. COVID has pushed us to roll up our sleeves more times than we ever imagined and evaluate all the good we’ve accomplished, but also analyze where there is room for improvement.
During a few moments of downtime last week, I reflected on several discussions with our members about how more than 300,000 women across the country left the workforce last month largely due to caregiving responsibilities. While the concern has been a topic of ongoing news, this latest statistic marks the highest drop-off of women from the workforce since September 2020 — and it gave me pause. These discussions and self-reflection caused me to ask myself: Have I done enough; what is enough; and what is within my control to change? At a time when we’re all stretched thin as it is, self-reflection can often feel like a tall order, but for me, it has been essential for personal and organizational growth.
While there are numerous variables to this issue of women feeling compelled to leave the workforce, one thing we can control as business leaders is continuing to set an inclusive culture for our female colleagues that supports, empowers, and celebrates women. I’m proud to say that our member companies and job creators all across the state live and breathe that spirit every day as part of their corporate values.
As executive leaders, we emulate what a supportive culture looks like for the rest of our staff. Both leading up to and during the pandemic, I’ve heard so many great examples of impactful ways our members are championing their female colleagues in their careers, some of which I will share with you:
• Implementing mentorship programs in which men mentor women and vice versa: This is how we learn from one another and begin to understand one another’s needs and challenges – while also propelling women forward in their careers.
• Expanding what workplace flexibility looks like: This year and 2020 certainly shifted our concept of the traditional 9-5, expanded our view of workplace flexibility options, and showed us that personal and professional time spills over into the other. It’s about making work actually work for all our colleagues.
• Awarding more professional opportunities to female colleagues: Because men still occupy the majority of senior-level positions, they play a critical role in empowering women and taking action to secure lasting change.
• Advocating for fairer workplace policies: Examining issues that matter to women such as equal parental leave policies and pay transparency.
Recruiting, rewarding, mentoring, and promoting women paves the way for current and future generations of female leaders. I am personally proud to say that 60 percent of the NC Chamber’s executive leadership team consists of women, who are invaluable to the work we do to serve our members.
We’ve all seen the data and positive impacts of having a diverse workforce – inclusive of leadership positions – related to employee engagement, creativity, productivity, and motivation levels. In fact, this is the exact topic of the lunch session being led by the NC Chamber’s incoming female Board Chair Sepi Saidi during our upcoming Nov. 16 Women > A Force in Business Conference.
This NC Chamber conference, one of our most popular and powerful events, provides a forum for professional women and their allies to discuss career advancement tools, share personal and professional fulfillment strategies, and celebrate the unique contributions women bring to the workplace.
Because the list of member successes above is by no means an exhaustive one, please share with us what your organization is currently doing to be strong advocates for women in the workplace. Men are a critical component of this dialogue, and we’re proud of our member companies and all job creators for making these conversations an ongoing priority in their workplaces. That’s also why we emphasize the importance of both females and their male allies attending Women > A Force in Business.
That said, I hope you ALL will join us on Nov. 16, in Raleigh or virtually.
Gary J. Salamido
President and CEO