The pandemic was tough on working mothers who, during the height of the quarantine, suddenly took on homeschooling and additional caretaking responsibilities. Some women made the hard decision to leave their jobs behind. But here in Seattle, there’s some good news.
Women in Seattle are advancing to management positions at the highest rate in the country. According to new LinkedIn data, Seattle saw the largest proportion of women moving into management roles in 2021.
“Women in Seattle are 80% more likely than the national average to advance in Seattle than in, say, New York or San Francisco or some of the other metro areas,” said Caroline Fairchild, editor at large at LinkedIn.
Not surprisingly, the industry where women succeeded most was in pandemic-proof tech.
“Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, Boeing, and Salesforce; those are all companies that made LinkedIn’s top companies list this year,” Fairchild said.
There are tech companies in plenty of other cities, so why are more women in Seattle being promoted?
“A lot of people weren’t able to necessarily say, ‘Oh, this is why this is happening in Seattle.’ But it wasn’t surprising to anyone, which I think gets back to the progressive nature of this city,” said Fairchild, who interviewed many Seattle executives and experts in her research. “Coming at the hiring process inclusively and really understanding and respecting the importance of diverse teams, work-life balance that living in the city, and its access to nature, really promotes. And then also some of the family-friendly policies that, in some cases, Seattle was the first to institute.”
Fairchild says letting people work from home allows for more flexibility to take on a management role and care for a family and Seattle tech companies have embraced the option.
At Amazon, there is a 16-week returnship program open to people who have taken several years off from their career. It’s a way to gently make their way back into the workforce and, at any given time, at least seventy-five percent of program participants are women.
“I like to say that women are the caretakers of society,” said Alex Mooney, senior manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Talent Acquisition programs at Amazon. “Women are more likely than men to pause their career to raise a family or, if somebody gets ill or injured, they’ll pause their career to become a caregiver.”
Mooney says nearly everyone accepted into the program, men and women, expressed that they felt imposter syndrome and a lot of nerves and fear when faced with the daunting process of job hunting after taking a handful of years off.
“The labor market has not traditionally rewarded people for openly advertising that they’re unemployed,” said Mooney. “There’s also the added intimidation factor of having been away from their career for multiple years. They wanted an environment where they knew that they would be supported in the restart of their career. Whereas, if you’re hired directly into a full-time position, you’re thrown in with your other colleagues who have been doing the job more recently or longer than you have.”
Amazon’s returnship program is paid, work-from-home, and participants do real work within the company. Most are offered jobs and relocation funds if they’re required to move.
Fairchild says having more women in management positions increases the chances that they will promote other women.
“Men are 80% more likely than their female peers to be considered for management positions,” said Fairchild. “So really helping women get from that entry level position into that first position of manager is going to have a cascading effect across the corporate ladder. There’s obviously a lot of attention and lip service paid to getting women into the C-suite. We need to be doing that and modeling female leaders from the top, but looking further down the pipeline, looking at how we’re advancing female talent once they enter the organization is equally as important.”
According to LinkedIn data, the top 5 cities for women advancing into management roles are Seattle, Fayetteville, Arkansas (home of Walmart), San Francisco, Austin and Denver.