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7 Ways Supervisors Can Ensure Women's Professional Development

7 Ways Supervisors Can Ensure Women's Professional Development

We're committed to your personal and professional growth at Johnson & Johnson, which means we’re working proactively to ensure that all women have access to the exact same opportunities as men. And you can see that commitment reflected in the fact that nearly half of our 130,000-plus associates around the world are women, with 43% of them in management roles.

While we’re quite proud of the success we’ve had so far, a lot of work remains to be done. Indeed, at this point simple steps like prioritizing work/life balance should be viewed as table stakes. To help really move the needle, we gathered insights from people at all levels at Johnson & Johnson. Here are seven best practices we've evolved internally to help supervisors ensure women’s professional development.

Implement Mentorship Programs

Studies show that mentorship plays a decisive role in career growth for everyone, but especially for women and other underrepresented groups. Yet 63% of women in the workforce today don't have mentors, so there's a lot of room for improvement. That's where Johnson & Johnson is ahead of the curve.

"We offer a host of cross-functional mentorship opportunities," said Shlomi Nachman, Company Group Chairman, Cardiovascular & Specialty Solutions at Johnson & Johnson Vision. "For example, there’s mentorship between engineering and marketing teams. And it's always an ongoing, iterative thing—never one and done."

And beyond cross-functional mentoring at Johnson & Johnson, there are also our local site mentorship programs, which pair women with senior technical and business leaders for one-on-one confidential discussions and trainings.

Make Feedback a Two-Way Street

If you don’t give your direct reports ongoing feedback and coaching, how will they understand what they're doing well and what they need to improve? And yet, according to a McKinsey study, while most employees believe feedback and face time with leaders are critical to their advancement, men tend to get more of both.

At Johnson & Johnson, recognition and feedback are two cornerstones of our culture, so we’ve taken steps to make sure everyone gets an equal share. "We've developed a number of practices to ensure everyone has a voice and is heard,” said Trevor Speeg, Director R&D, Surgical Robotics at Ethicon, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. “In practice, it can be as simple as never finishing a meeting until everyone has been individually asked if they have any comments to make."

Rethink Your Approach to Annual Performance Reviews

One of the drawbacks of performance reviews is that they can wind up as unintended repositories of implicit or unconscious biases. For instance, one study of approximately 5,000 performance reviews found that how employees were rated depended on "personal idiosyncrasies and biases of the rater" 65% of the time, and actual performance only 25% of the time. Worse yet, studies have shown that women receive a disproportionate share of negative feedback on performance reviews compared to men.

So do what Johnson & Johnson does and develop leadership training specifically around gender dynamics and unconscious biases. "On an ongoing basis we spend time as a leadership team talking about differences in the ways that women and men prefer to be engaged with, managed and empowered," explained Todd Tetreault, Vice President Contract Strategy, Pricing at Johnson & Johnson. "And that has led to great dialogue. It’s also helped educate us all and created greater awareness of bias."

Foster Trust Among Team Members

We believe that a work environment in which team members feel comfortable expressing divergent opinions—what one study by Google calls a feeling of "psychological safety"—is fertile ground for innovation. Yet surveys indicate that at some organizations, only about 50% of employees feel safe communicating their ideas and opinions to colleagues.

At Johnson & Johnson, we're disrupting and innovating every day to shape the future of health, so trust is at the foundation of everything we do. "Trust and recognition go hand in hand," said Shlomi. “We want people to come forward with new ideas. We’re also always careful to review our near misses as well as our successes—since these are parts of everybody's journey."

We also empower all of our team members to autonomously explore, create and make decisions—in part because we know that micromanagement is often interpreted by employees as signaling a lack of trust.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Of course, taking credit for other people's work is never acceptable, but some research suggests that women respond more strongly than men to being slighted in this manner. In one study, for example, 71% of women said that a boss taking credit for their work or ideas was “not at all acceptable" or “a deal breaker that would make them want to quit,” compared to 55% of men.

So it’s essential to give your teammates the recognition they deserve—and Shlomi explained one of the ways we work to ensure that happens at Johnson & Johnson. "When team members are working together on a project, they know that they are being evaluated as a team,” he said. “That way, everybody understands that their performance is linked and they will succeed or fail together.”

Join Employee Resource Groups

At most companies today, women's leadership groups aren't just for women. Instead, they're opportunities for all allies of gender equality to connect and come together. So it's crucial for supervisors to participate and demonstrate support from the top down.

Plus, as Jeanne Bennett, Enterprise Co-Chair of our Open&Out LGBTQ Employee Resource Group (ERG), pointed out, participating in ERGs sometimes comes with other benefits as well. "It's an opportunity for networking, development and growth—often in ways that are complementary to your day-to-day job," she said.

Provide Flexible Work Options

Women and men often have different obligations outside of the workplace, especially when it comes to caring for family members. For instance, among working parents, 42% of mothers say they have cut back on working hours to care for a child or family member, compared to only 28% of fathers. Given the ways this kind of imbalance can impact career growth, it's imperative that companies take steps to counteract it.

That’s why we're doing everything we can to support new mothers returning from maternity leave. Amanda Ciocci, Manager - People Experience at Johnson & Johnson, recalled her own return from maternity leave this way: "Coming back to a culture where it was not only expected, but respected that I took parental leave to bond with my baby helped eliminate any guilt. And having a flexible work schedule, in terms of hours and location, is what will enable me to continue working as a mom."

Join Johnson & Johnson Today

We've been supporting women's professional advancement at Johnson & Johnson since our founding in 1886, when eight of our first 14 employees were women, and that support continues today through innovative programs like Re-Ignite, which helps STEM professionals return to the workforce. Ready to build your career with a company that will support your growth and empower you to pursue your interests—wherever they take you? Check out all of the opportunities available for you to join us at Johnson & Johnson today.

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