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The 7 must-haves for women at work (beyond the paycheck!)

Updated: Oct 30, 2021

By Judy Schoenberg and Linda Lautenberg, Co-founders of EvolveMe

Did you know that women’s participation in the workforce is at an all time low this fall?

At only 57%, it’s the lowest since 1988.

What happened here?

Women were making gains in the workforce right before the pandemic hit. But then caregiving and other responsibilities took center stage, forcing many women to step away.

And the women who remain employed? They’re doing more at work and home than ever before, and feeling burned out.

Even so, today over a million women are trying to get back into the workforce. A significant barrier? 1/3 of women 40+ who’ve been out for six months or more say they’ve faced gender and/or age discrimination

Research shows it will take an additional 36 years to gain gender equity in the workforce as a result of the losses during the pandemic. 36 more years?

We need all hands on deck to turn this ship around!

The statistics sound dire -- but the reality doesn’t have to be. Now’s the time for companies to take action and be responsive to women’s needs.

Bringing more women back to the workforce - including women in midlife - is a win-win for companies AND the women themselves.

There’s a shortage of skilled workers, and experienced women are a talent pool that organizations have overlooked to fill this gap.

Through our work with women in the EvolveMe community, we have our ear to the ground about why highly accomplished and credentialed women leave companies and importantly -- what it will take for them to return or to stay.

Here are 7 features women want in companies now:

  1. Empathy: Women want to feel understood. They want organizations to acknowledge the responsibilities they have outside of work and not penalize them for these obligations (motherhood penalty be gone!)

  2. Culture. Women are looking for a values-first culture, whether in the for-profit or social sector, and they’re paying attention to how these principles are embraced at the leadership level. They’re looking for cultures that “walk the talk”.

  3. Flexibility. The pandemic has opened the floodgates for flexible and remote work arrangements. The future of work needs to hold onto this flexibility given the evidence that remote work does not compromise business outcomes.

  4. Wellness. Women are looking for all-around wellbeing at work. They want to work for companies that put self-care at the top of the list and see mental health as a non-negotiable. Happiness at work is not just nice, it’s necessary.

  5. Advancement. Women are looking for career pathways. New research shows it’s not just up to women to demand more -- companies often give them less responsibility than men early on in their careers, which has a snowball effect. This needs to change!

  6. Meaning. Work for work’s sake? No thank you. Women want their careers to have meaning. They’re looking for fulfillment and want to understand how their roles contribute to the mission of the organization.

  7. Mentoring: Women want safe spaces to learn and build relationships with each other across functions, departments and roles. This is the first time FIVE generations are in the workforce together and women in midlife have a lot to offer and learn from younger colleagues and vice versa.

These insights have implications for women considering whether to leave their roles. And for female talent contemplating re-entry, they’re points which factor into which companies they’ll gravitate towards.

Companies can learn a lot by listening to what women need to feel valued at work -- it goes well beyond their paycheck.

How about you?

  • If you’re employed, which of the 7 features resonates most with you?

  • If you’re job searching, which are most important to you? What else would you add to the list?

  • If you’re an employer, which aspects relating to women’s job satisfaction are your top priorities?

Want to learn more about how EvolveMe supports women’s return to the workforce and prepares women to be the skilled talent pipeline employers need now? Check out our website:


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