“Belonging is not only about being invited to the table but knowing and feeling and believing you deserve to be there because you are respected and valued and your colleagues and clients want to hear your opinion,” said Wahlstrom.
That assertion is backed up by Alight’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion research. To feel like they truly belong, survey respondents across all communities said they want their employer, colleagues, and others to:
- See me
- Know me
- Support me
- Protect me
- Value me
All five attributes, Alight’s model references as Belonging Benefits, clearly tie into creating a sense of belonging, but women ranked the last attribute, “value me,” the highest. For employers, that means showing your people that you care about them and their contributions to the organization; understanding their goals and helping them reach those goals; and giving them the assurance they need in times of uncertainty.
“Listening is a key part of that, helping our teams really find their voice and giving them a sense of purpose and the ability to drive decisions,” said Rooney. “We have to support them because women want to have influence over decisions, but sometimes they need permission to bring their best ideas.”
Helping female employees feel comfortable speaking up builds their confidence and creates that coveted sense of belonging. It’s also important for women to see other women in senior roles and serving on boards. That shows them that women are not only respected at the organization but that their contributions are valued at all levels.