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A great deal of attention has been paid recently to women in leadership, or more accurately, the lack of women in significant leadership positions. While women are certainly stepping into more  key roles, many of these roles do not have broad spans of authority or financial management responsibility. According to a recent study on women in the workplace, the pandemic heavily impacted the opportunities to create an equal workplace. A situation that was not favorable to begin with just got worse. With current trends, it is expected to take another 135 years to close the gender gap. 

Additionally, of the 1.1 million workers that left the workforce in September 2021, an estimated 865,000 were women. Many women still shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibilities related to childcare and the home. Getting a sense of just how much support women receive in a company can be difficult, so here are three ways to spot companies that genuinely support female leadership. 

Look at the organizational chart and policies
When you look at the faces of the senior leadership, what trends can you identify?  Even if there are a few female or BIPOC faces, if the senior leadership is more than 80% male, there’s a good chance this company still has significant work to do in terms of supporting a diverse workforce. You can also review the corporate strategy and look to see if promoting women as leaders is a priority. Accenture has developed an excellent program that focuses on nurturing women leaders

Ask for a tour of the office after your interview
While many companies are still in a state of flux in terms of work-from-home positions and office attendance, you can tell a lot just by walking through an office. How many women do you see, and where are they located? If women are mostly located in the center spaces of an open office and don’t see any women in the outer offices, there’s a good chance that women aren’t holding senior positions. Similarly, if you walk through an office and it’s all women, it could mean  women are left to hold down the fort and manage administrative and operational details which are less likely to land them in a CEO role. 

Interview them as they interview you
If a business or company is interested in cultivating female leadership, they will most likely have at least one woman as part of an interview team. Observe the dynamics between the panel of interviewers.  If only one person interviews you, and that person  happens to be a man, don’t assume that  the company doesn’t support female leadership.  During the interview, consider asking how the company supports female leaders. When listening to the answer, pay attention to the content as much as how the response is delivered. 

Given the recent exodus of women from the workforce, it’s more important than ever that companies consider the degree to which their workplace policies support female employees. Every person in an organization can contribute to more equitable work environments – it starts with demonstrating respect for each person’s individual contribution. Your skill set, not your gender, is what matters. Female professionals might also consider organizing affinity groups to explore ways in which their employer could be more supportive. This is a great starting point to help make long-term changes in a workforce where the gender gap is expected to grow.