What Women Want in the Workplace in 2021

If research is anything to go by, a diverse and inclusive workplace can be a force reckoner for the company’s bottom line. Whilst companies sit on the edge of their seats to make their work places more diverse, women climbing the corporate ladder continue to face pain points in their quest for upward mobility.

The infamy of the glass ceiling is dwindling in many places. Yet women routinely face challenges at entry-level and mid-level management positions.


The onslaught of COVID-19 has changed the way women work. Burdens of isolation, work anxiety, online classes of children, family’s health and financial difficulties, the work place has become rife with difficulties. There are plenty of ways by which companies can attract, hire and retain top woman talent in their organizations. One way of doing this is by being more sensitive to the needs of women. Here is a rundown of just some of the things that women want in the workplace:

  1. Work Flexibility - Flexibility in work hours will give women a better opportunity to redress issues while striving to achieve a work life balance. A flexible approach will entail greater parity of roles between men and women leading to better outcomes as economies grapple with the pandemic.

A large majority of women give greater importance to flexibility vis-à-vis other perks and benefits. Flexible schedules and paid overtime were more critical for women who juggled professional commitments with small children. Organizations who offer this equitable flexibility generally stand out

Women cited this very common reason for staying with their current employer that their job fitted seamlessly with other aspects of their life such as their personal lives and even their ideologies, values and beliefs. Many women deem this as their ‘calling’ or their ‘purpose’ where they derive immense joy and consider this very close to their identity. Women who found their ‘callings’ through their work experienced greater job satisfaction

  1. Progression despite career breaks - Many women have been forced to quit work during the pandemic. Employers more than ever need to address penalties enforced on women for taking career breaks, male preferential treatment and excessively long working hours to prove themselves. What women really want is the right leadership development opportunities. They also expressed concerns about not being qualified enough for these roles and that the pressure on them was tremendous as compared to men. Organizations can easily solve this problem by better training, funding, supervisor support and larger teams that worked together.
  1. Reducing the gender pay gap – Women are shown to earn substantially lesser than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap can be closed through concerted efforts by management to ensure that employees are paid across the board as per their skills and qualifications.

One way of doing this is through male sponsorship and mentorship. If men took the baton and advocated for their female colleagues behind closed doors for raises and promotions, this would reduce the gender pay gap. Women feel men in power need to be more transparent about how much they make to help close the gap. “Share your salary details with a female for pay parity”.

Financial anxiety has gone up by a notch during the pandemic especially for single women with families to support. Women want their companies to institute policies and programs to ease financial burden such as increased paid leave and expanded stipends to offset costs of work from home.

  1. Remedial measures for better inclusion and less gender bias – The pandemic has thrown light on the biases that women face at the work place: very high performance standards, penalties for motherhood, punishment for mistakes and being made to feel small for taking advantage of flexible timings.

To mitigate this, companies need to make their employees aware of them and guard against them. Bias training can help employees to openly voice their concerns should such biases be found. It’s also important to monitor the trajectory of promotions and raises for women in the work place as well as the breakdown of paid leaves so that everyone is treated fairly.

Based on the above, company leaders can help women by enabling them to find joy and meaning in their work, give real-time and practical support to those working from home and give equal opportunities for promotions, raises and leadership skills. The truly successful leaders have emerged from the pandemic being more humble and empathetic, showing great respect for the ‘feminine’ force. By not patronizing women and showing compassion, women can develop their true potential and emerge victorious.



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