When talented individuals in your organization stagnate or leave, it’s time to help your managers be more effective in their role. Supporting managers becomes increasingly crucial in technical organizations promoting diversity and inclusion.
The Unspoken Reality: STEM+ Women Feel Undervalued
Jasmine has four years of experience and is the only woman of color on the operations team. Her manager often talks about inclusivity and tries to support her. Unfortunately, building an inclusive environment without the proper skills takes significantly more work than it should.
“In team meetings, my peers always talk over me, and my manager does nothing about it. If I do get control back of the conversation, I have gotten feedback from a peer that I am coming across as too aggressive. My voice is not heard, and frankly, I feel undervalued and overlooked,” Jasmine says.
In the context of high-performing employees, particularly women in STEM+ fields, it becomes essential for managers to recognize the unique challenges they face. Despite their qualifications and achievements, as much as 81% of STEM+ women don’t always feel valued in their work and 77% often don’t feel included within their teams and organizations. Furthermore, the pay gap in STEM+ industries is still significant — 18% in 2021.
This unbalanced treatment, even if unintentional, can lead to frustration and a sense of stagnation, ultimately causing many women in STEM+ to either leave the industry or seek opportunities elsewhere.
The unspoken challenges women face in STEM+ industries are often not explicitly expressed, as individuals may be hesitant to voice their concerns directly or during exit interviews, fearing repercussions or burning bridges.
And here’s another reason managers play a critical role in addressing this unspoken reality. Leaders at all levels must be proactive in recognizing and addressing these issues. They must actively listen, seek feedback, and create opportunities for open dialogue, ensuring that the experiences and needs of women in STEM+ are acknowledged and acted upon.
Managers Are in A Tough Spot
Managers are not to be blamed. Yes, they are responsible for creating an environment that fosters inclusivity and supports the growth and development of diverse talent. But how can they do that effectively?
Most new and mid-level managers need more support to succeed in their leadership roles. They excel in their technical positions and are then promoted based on their expertise without considering the additional skills required to manage and lead talented individuals.
Suddenly finding themselves responsible for the success and well-being of their entire team can be overwhelming. More than 50% of managers state they’re constantly feeling burnout at work, and management burnout is likely to worsen.
Jon’s been managing a team of developers for two years, but he still feels he has yet to find his footing. “I am burned out, working 14 hours a day trying to balance deploying strategic initiatives, managing the work, and growing the team. This job seems almost impossible,” Jon says.
Unfortunately, supporting managers is easier said than done. While they may have access to resources such as HR business partners and their own managers for support, there is a need for targeted upskilling programs that enable them to keep up with the dynamic working environments in STEM+ industries.
From Impossible to ROI
As more industries struggle to attract and retain STEM+ talent, managers need better tools to help themselves do better and speak up to help others around them. So, it becomes essential for companies to recognize that managers are pivotal in driving the necessary changes within the system. They are the ones who directly impact the experiences and growth opportunities available to their team members, including their diverse talent.
To support managers, many companies turn to coaches or coaching services. The challenge with this singular approach is implementation at scale.
Knowing how to create more inclusive conversations and reduce bias in the workplace are critical skills for managers. But unless the organizational leaders see tangible business results, these same leaders may be reluctant to continue efforts when times get challenging. Executive coaching is expensive, and it remains limited to leaders at the top of the organization when companies have no way to prove ROI from implementation at scale.
So, the question becomes, how can they support managers while driving better business results?
Upskilling Must Tie to Results
Back to Jon, the overburdened, overwhelmed, stressed-out manager. Jon’s manager told him he needed to think strategically and spend more time coaching his people. But to do that, Jon needed to improve in three areas:
- His own productivity
- His ability to delegate
- His ability to prioritize the work of his team as it related to the company strategy
Focusing on these three areas first allowed Jon to free up his time to assess and grow his talent and deliver productivity results noticed by senior leaders.
This emphasis on the return on investment from upskilling and coaching is what leaders need to stay committed to the course of supporting managers. Once Jon showed business results, he worked on how to coach better and have more inclusive conversations.
The answer is to enable managers to solve problems, improve their work, and develop stellar leadership skills.
Managers and Their Teams Deserve Better
To truly support managers and ensure their success, companies must prioritize providing comprehensive support from day one or as early as possible in the managerial journey. This investment in upskilling, mentoring, and coaching programs for managers has a ripple effect throughout the organization.
When managers have the necessary skills and knowledge to truly support their employees, teams become more productive and engaged. This, in turn, leads to increased innovation, improved collaboration, and ultimately a higher return on investment for the company.
Companies must provide upskilling programs at scale so that managers from all backgrounds and levels of experience can enhance their leadership skills and create more inclusive environments.
Last but not least, it’s crucial to focus on solving the real problems rather than simply checking off boxes on a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) checklist. Upskilling initiatives should address the challenges and barriers managers and high-performing employees face, considering the unique dynamics of their roles. It’s the only way organizations can create meaningful change and foster environments where everyone can thrive.