Career Woman

Why women struggle to be engaged at work


Lately I’ve been wondering if we are often focusing too much on our clients at the expense of our people. While organisations concentrate on building organisational efficiency, improving customer service systems or introducing the latest technology – all the areas which men are naturally drawn to and good at – we are overlooking the needs of our people. And that raises the risk that women particularly struggle to be engaged at work.

When I talk to female workers, they quickly put their finger on the health of an organisation in human terms. They notice when people are burning out or struggling, and they see when others are becoming overwhelmed. It’s women who are the human thermometers of the organisation, so what happens when our women leave work due to external demands on them? Who will monitor the organisational health then?

Did you know that adult women are the fastest growing group to be diagnosed with ADHD? Whether or not the diagnosis is accurate, it’s a clear sign that women are under stress. We know that women still carry most of the load with housekeeping and child-rearing, so it’s understandable that we struggle to give as much as we would like to at work.

Workplaces are the big losers if they don’t take action. Research by Zenger Folkman found that women scored higher in 12 of 16 key leadership skills, including the ‘feminine’ skills of developing others, building relationships, collaborating, and practicing self-development, but also in the areas often associated with males, such as taking initiative, driving for results and solving problems and analysing issues. What that means is that they are losing or unable to use the best capacities of the people who are potentially the most valuable leaders in the organisation.

We need to find a way to help our women become more engaged at work, and that means finding ways to let them meet the many demands on their time without guilt. It means finding ways for the organisation to nurture and care for women by allowing them to be wives and mothers as well as team members and leaders. Women will become involved and committed to their work when we can minimise the stress that comes with their multifunctional role.

Yes, we need flexible workplaces and gender diversity policies to respect and support our contributions. We need development programs specifically designed for women, which help us find ways to manage our many roles while still updating our skills and knowledge at work. We need opportunities for advancement, which respect the different way we approach our roles.  We need women to learn to respect their own achievements and stop measuring themselves against their male counterparts.  We need men to take a step back and discover that there is a different form of leadership which works every bit as well as the one they are used to. Above all, we need the respect and support of men as we work together for the good of the organisation.

Women are hardworking and loyal creatures. Any investment into their welfare and career opportunities will be repaid many times over by the results they bring.  It’s time that organisations started to see the workplace in a new and expanded light, and let their people decide how and when they are able to work at their best.

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonald, Director of LeadershipHQ, is a thought leader, consultant, full time single mum and dynamic speaker and writer. Internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and strategy, organisational development and neuroscience, Sonia is an engaging writer who inspires as she educates. Sonia’s key focus is on the strategies behind successful business and leadership. Her articles and blogs are both fun and informative. Taking a neuroscience approach, Sonia shows how the power of the human brain can become the driver for business and team success, pushing your business to achieve and surpass organisational objectives. She has also just launched her amazing EmpowHER program which is taking Australia by storm and building leadership capability and confidence for women across the nation.

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