Empathy improves inclusion, engagement, and retention

Lorraine Hariton, President & CEO, Catalyst

 IWD 2022

At Catalyst we work with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to build workplaces that work for women. Since our founding in 1962, we’ve had great success in helping organizations build more inclusive workplaces and accelerate progress for women.

This year, Catalyst celebrates 60 years of progress for women in the workplace. In this post- pandemic moment, through the #GreatReimagining of the workplace, we see unprecedented opportunities to #BiasCorrect and finally create workplaces that work for all.

That’s why we’re focusing our own International Women’s Day campaign on empathy, encouraging, and challenging all of us to be the Chief Empathy Officer of our organizations – no matter our job description or title.

Unconscious biases have traditionally led us to characterize empathy as “feminine” and “not suitable” for the workplace or leadership positions, but Catalyst research has shown empathy to be a crucial leadership skill – one we're all capable of learning.

The research shows how empathy improves inclusion, engagement, and retention when demonstrated by empathic leaders who respect employee life circumstances, support both life and work needs, and thereby foster inclusion, compared to less empathic leaders.

It also shows:

  • Employees with highly empathic senior leaders report higher levels of creativity (61%) and engagement (76%) than those with less empathic senior leaders (13% and 32%, respectively).
  • Women across race and ethnicity with highly empathic managers were less likely to report high levels of Covid-19-related workplace burnout (54%) than those with less empathic managers (63%).

If companies focus on creating inclusive working environments where empathy is prioritized and practiced, then we can help keep women in the workforce and bring back those, burdened by the pandemic, who left during the “Great Resignation”.

This International Women’s Day and beyond, let’s #BreaktheBias about the value of empathy and who can demonstrate it. Let’s reimagine the workplace, so it works for everyone.



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