I want purpose from my workplace from which I derive a sense of meaning.
By Lauren Noël and Christie Hunter Arscott
The early career women we interviewed want to work for organizations with a deep sense of purpose. They want to contribute to the world in a way that matters. As the inbound marketing firm HubSpot’s Culture Code proclaims, “Paychecks matter, but purpose matters more.” Aspiring women leaders told us that they join and stay with organizations if they derive a deep sense of meaning from their work. Organizations and their executives that understand this are making the shift from “practices” that develop rising female stars to creating a culture that inspires future women leaders.
UNDERSTAND THAT A COMPELLING MISSION HELPS RETAIN EARLY CAREER TALENT
A compelling mission not only brings early career women in the door, it keeps them from heading for
the exits. “When I think about attracting women, I think about retention from the start,” explained one senior executive. Leaders at eBay affirm that a sense of purpose and meaning is essential to retaining emerging women leaders. Connie Geiger, Senior Director Talent Acquisition, eBay explained, “A millennial woman will leave because of the opportunity to work on the next meaningful, cutting edge, cool thing. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. That is one of the reasons we have such retention of young female talent at eBay. These future female leaders understand the impact that eBay marketplaces have on people’s lives.” Organizational leaders are following eBay’s example by defining compelling missions and visions, broadly communicating these to their people, and engaging early career talent in meaningful work aligned with personal and organizational values.
EXPOSE EARLY CAREER WOMEN TO SENIOR WOMEN ROLE MODELS
Early career women seek inspiration through role models within their organizations. In addition, women who do not see female role models in their organization’s senior ranks – leaders who reflect the values they want to embody and the careers and lives they want to lead – are more likely to leave their organizations. Executives highlighted a range of strategies to increase junior women’s exposure and access to senior women leaders. Philips engages senior women leaders in leader-led learning, where they share their career challenges and advice with more junior employees. According to Belinda Liu, who is based in Philips’ Singapore office, “In Philips’ Next Gen Women in Leadership program, we look for role model female leaders within our organization to deliver the program modules. For example, if we are planning to run the program in the Middle East or in Asean, we encourage our different markets to bring in local female leaders to talk about their own experiences as leaders. We look at this as ‘leader-led learning’ and a great opportunity for these leaders to share the challenges they have faced along the way.”
ENCOURAGE WOMEN TO PAY IT FORWARD
Programs targeted at senior-level women have a trickledown effect on women lower down in the pipeline. At BlackRock, senior leader development programs emphasize that leaders stand on the shoulders of the women before them. The participants walk away with an enhanced sense of responsibility to pay it forward, and they do. Kara Helander, Managing Director, highlighted that BlackRock’s commitment to nurturing women is deeply rooted in the company’s culture. “Women at BlackRock feel an emotional ownership over developing other women. They feel ‘it’s not somebody else’s job to do, it’s my job to do.’ Those kinds of messages are part of our firm’s culture and have a trickledown effect.”
PLACE DIVERSITY & INCLUSION FRONT OF MIND
The women we interviewed want to work for organizations that place diversity and inclusion high on the strategic agenda. An important step towards inspiring the next generation of women leaders is creating a culture in which diversity and inclusion is deeply valued. RBC’s Steven Edwards explained, “While there is a strong focus on professional development for all RBC employees, diversity, as one of our values, is an important part of our culture. As a part of that, inclusion is an integral component of what makes RBC successful, and one of Canada’s top employers.”
Aspiring women leaders are increasingly seeking meaningful and inspiring work where they can make an impact on their organizations and their broader communities. Executives who respond to these desires by clearly defining and communicating a compelling mission, exposing junior women with senior role models, building a ‘pay it forward’ culture, and prioritizing inclusion will win the battle for the hearts and minds of early career female talent.