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Driving Workplace Equality and Growth in Tech With Empathetic Leadership

Driving Workplace Equality and Growth in Tech With Empathetic Leadership

By Dr. V Boykin, Senior Program Manager, GTM Enablement; HubSpot

This blog post is part of the INBOUND Speaker Insights series: where industry leaders share their expertise, actionable tips, and innovative strategies for success in sales, marketing, leadership, and more.

“You’ve been slacking lately. It seems like you’re losing motivation, and your productivity is suffering. Fix it.”

Decades later, I still remember how invisible I felt after receiving that performance review. I had recently returned to work after giving birth to my son. A new, single mother with minimal family support, I was utterly exhausted, but I pushed on; with another mouth to feed, I had no other choice. But the second I found another job, I resigned, and my manager lost one of his most determined, hardworking employees – another overwhelmed mom.

This antiquated model of “leadership” has proven ineffective time and again, cultivating work environments rife with inequalities and triggering high attrition. Our industry is not immune. A 2019 study found as many as 43% of new mothers leave their full-time technology jobs after having their first child (Cech & Blair-Loy, 2019).

At the same time, companies with women in management increase financial returns by 15-35% (Prince et al., 2020). So, the question emerges: As leaders in innovation, how do we foster an equitable workplace culture for women and jointly decrease expensive attrition?

Here’s my take: Leaders need to meet women (and frankly, all employees) where they’re at. Innovative managers look beyond problems to understand their employees and work with them to create solutions.

They know empathy is a prerequisite for increased output, and understand how the old “here’s the assignment, get the work done” leadership style is ineffective at best and detrimental at worst.

Take, for example, the way my previous manager handled my performance review from way back when. How would you, as an innovative and understanding leader, have approached concerns about my performance differently? No, I won’t give you the answer; that would take the fun out of it.

Many incredible leaders, especially at HubSpot, are already practicing innovative, empathetic leadership, but the tech industry, like all fields, still has significant room for growth.

Good leaders appreciate female perspectives. Great leaders understand that women frequently bear the brunt of domestic responsibilities, and give them grace whenever possible.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of remote work as a substitute for face-to-face interaction, women have seen a 38% decrease in work-life balance (Hupfer et al., 2022). Female employees, for example, are now doing household chores when they could be prepping for essential meetings. For a company, this means reduced employee productivity and output; for women, this means additional stress in their work and home lives and a barrier to career advancement.

At a higher level, company leaders can mitigate this battle for women by offering suggestions and resources. So, instead of “Free Beer Fridays,” season ski passes and RV rental discounts (yes, these are real perks offered by real companies), tech companies could provide stipends for meal kit delivery or grocery delivery, housekeeping and laundry services, and childcare assistance. This kind of support would have been life-changing during my years as a single parent.

Although workplace equality has increased in recent years, women still held only 26% of tech positions in 2023 (Annabi & Lebovitz, 2018), and, in 2024 female employees occupied only 5% of senior leadership roles in tech (womentech network, 2024). Let’s make 2024 the year those numbers skyrocket, starting with innovative leadership. Who’s in?

Dr. V Boykin

Dr. V Boykin

Senior Program Manager, GTM Enablement; HubSpot

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