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Why Your Mid-Level Leaders Are Key in Creating Spaces of Belonging for Women

Communication builds trust. In my experience, business communication gaps typically exist within the mid-level leadership level, which means that executive leadership directives given to managers may not be communicated quickly and accurately to the entire team. This can create a breach of trust within your company, which particularly affects the retention of underrepresented demographics such as women.

Here are some findings from the 2020 McKinsey Women in the Workplace Study:

  1. When asked to check in weekly to make sure workloads are manageable, 73% of companies have asked their managers to check in on their teams, but only 39% of employees say their managers asked.

  2. When asked to check in weekly on mental health and well-being, 68% of companies have asked their managers to ask their teams, but only 37% of employees say their managers do.

  3. And when asked to take steps to ensure parents’ work/life needs are being met, 43% of companies have asked their managers to follow up with their teams, but only 36% of employees say their managers have done so.

If you look at the shortcomings of managers and wonder whether employing managers is worth the trouble, you’re not the first! Google conducted a research experiment called Project Oxygen to prove that managers are not vital to a company’s success -- and ended up proving that excellent managers produced better, more productive teams. So, knowing that mid-level leaders are vital, how can you ensure that your peer leaders and managers are communicating and understanding the needs of their team?

Idea #1: Incorporate required feedback from managers. Ask them to provide specific findings from their team. Ask them to identify one action they are taking to improve their team experience.

Idea #2: Create metrics to provide visual measurements of progress and change. Encourage your managers to take ownership of improving these metrics.

One current challenge for employees is that very few companies require their managers to communicate and understand their team’s work/life needs as parents and caregivers. With both women and men experiencing increased demands outside of work due to COVID-19, women being most affected, a company that does not take initiative to intentionally understand work/life balance will be impacted negatively. Retention and engagement outcomes will decrease. As mid-level leaders improve their communication and build trust with their teams, however, company culture and retention rates will improve. Employees are more likely to communicate their challenges if there is a space that makes them feel comfortable and not seen as a burden, and communication fosters belonging.

We Optimize Work helps organizations who seek resources to support their current initiatives for retention of high-potential women in the workplace and gender diversity in leadership roles. Visit to book a call with me or message me personally on LinkedIn to learn more. Have an optimized day!



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