How can robotics and AI organizations engage women in response to The Great Resignation? On Thursday, October 7th, Robots.Jobs attended an event where, Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, moderated and featured Sharra Owens-Schwartz, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Senior Director at Rocket Software, and Heather Bender, VP of Talent at iRobot, to discuss The Great Resignation and how to engage women. Kicking off the call, Addie shared that over 2.5 million women left the US workforce during the pandemic, and 1 in 3 are actively thinking about downshifting or leaving, which begs the question, what is happening with women, and what are robotics and AI companies doing about it?
Companies have needed to rethink their cultures and how they retain, attract, and support women because small advancements, improvements, and gains are no longer enough. Women are demanding massive change to support their changing lifestyles. Both iRobot and Rocket Software use reacHIRE’s Aurora platform to support women in their organizations so they develop skills, receive career advice and coaching, and build connections. Aurora is a platform designed to support all women in your workplace so they thrive and stay. You can find more information on Aurora at https://www.reachire.com/aurora/.
When asked about supporting women, Heather Bender, VP of Talent at iRobot, explains that their staff used to be in person, 8 to 5, and now they're almost entirely remote. Currently, just 10% of iRobot staff come to the office daily, and the other 90% work from home. She shares that one of the many ways iRobot is supporting women is by leaning into flexibility. Senior leaders have their kids in the background on calls, dogs barking, and doorbells ringing. Heather explains, "Our leaders understand and encourage calendars being blocked for family events or other life activities." Other iRobot initiatives are meeting free Friday afternoons and monthly webinars on meditation, improved sleep, and other topics submitted by their employees. iRobot is navigating The Great Resignation and engaging women by being empathetic to the stressors and pressures that they face while working from home. Heather shares, "We've experienced hundreds of new hires during the pandemic, and by listening to employee needs, I'm amazed by how the new situation has helped our culture evolve."
Addie asked the same question to Sharra Owens-Schwartz, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Senior Director- how is Rocket supporting women? "Rocket made the bold decision to be a work from home company after the pandemic. We wanted to give the ultimate level of choice for women juggling life's responsibilities. It's up to them if they want to come in," said Sharra. What worked for her team was paying attention to how the pandemic affected different populations, then reacting to better support their needs. This is reflected by retention of women being a top priority at Rocket; they provide comprehensive mental health and wellness support -such as interactive digital content, career coaching, life coaching, and conversation circles- to discuss the various topics and issues women face. Similar to what happened with iRobot's culture, "People are feeling more connected to other Rocketeers globally because they're online, talking to folks more than they would have had they not been in a pandemic. So we at Rocket aim to foster that and leverage that to continue to deepen belonging and inclusion across the globe," said Sharra.
In the end, navigating The Great Resignation and turning it into The Great Retention boils down to culture, community, and leaders genuinely seeking opportunities that improve both. Across all organizations, as seen from iRobot and Rocket Software, if women feel that their talent is put to good use, they can bring their whole selves to work, and can continue to develop, they're less likely to feel burnt out and seek opportunities elsewhere. As Sharra says, "Organizations should be structurally set up to foster belonging, and it's important to measure the success of these efforts. Diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a business imperative, and particular attention needs to be paid to women and other underrepresented groups. Companies need to put in the effort to create and sustain inclusive cultures. That work needs to begin before new employees even enter the door."