On Friday, June 24, 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, Lisa Marie Ringus, Executive Vice President of the female-founded and female-led global recruitment firm 24 Seven, made an unconventional choice: she gave her team of direct reports — all women — employees the day off. “A huge mission of our company, which is 80% women, is to support and empower our own employees, many of whom are working mothers,” says Lisa Marie. The exec, who prides herself on “leading with empathy,” knew that many of her employees would be upset by the Supreme Court ruling. “When the decision came through, I told my entire team to spend the day in whatever way they felt was important to them.”

In her role, Lisa Marie uses the same “people first, women-first” ethos to help companies and job seekers successfully navigate — and work together to improve — the current labor landscape, particularly for women. To that end, the company recently surveyed over 3200 female professionals across a broad range of ages, career stages, and demographics for their 2023 Amplifying Women at Work Report.

While generating a report on this topic felt timely and relevant, Lisa Marie admits she was not at all surprised by the results. “Nearly 70% percent of female parents surveyed said they were experiencing moderate or severe burnout as they struggle to balance careers with family,” says Lisa Marie, who has been spearheading client strategy and growth at 24 Seven for over 13 years. “Women have long been at the epicenter of the Covid crisis. After being sent home from work to care for kids, some are now being asked to go back to work, others are being asked to move or to take on more work. Many of our candidates now find themselves in roles where the schedule just doesn’t work for them. Flexibility is a very individualized issue. I am not a mother, but I have two dogs and a horse, and I’m not a morning person.”

“The burnout problem will require more than a strong cup of bulletproof coffee to solve,” says Lisa Marie. “The policy and culture of a company are really shaped by the leadership. It takes someone with a very high EQ to successfully manage all the various ages and stages of their employee base. Strong leaders are always looking for new ways to pivot according to the ever-changing needs and dynamics of their teams, work environments, and business.”

Covid intensified this need, she says, with many companies and employees still struggling to adjust to this new era of hybrid working. “The beauty industry has a lot of female executives and does a lot to support women and provide them with more flexibility, but many sectors are not doing it as well. I don’t think we are at a point in the U.S. where people feel they have a Zen workplace, but there has been a shift,” says Lisa Marie, noting that the insights provided by 24 Seven’s research are helping to close this gap. “The report is a gateway to change.”

Intent on being a driving force behind that change, Lisa Marie spends her days advising clients about how they can meet the needs of today’s working women, who now rank a “stress-free environment” and “flexibility” higher in priority than compensation. “Given the competitiveness of the workforce, particularly in the beauty industry, women have no qualms leaving jobs in pursuit of the perfect employer or perfect work-life situation.”

“Nowadays, candidates will not even discuss a job opportunity until a recruiter has shared the benefits and work schedule,” Lisa Marie says. “If we have a job that is three or four days a week versus a job that’s two days a week, two days is far more enticing. And when we get a company that demands being back in the office full time, it’s a very tough job to fill. If I’m working with a new client, I need to know everything about their benefits, culture, and work schedule. I’ll also ask questions like, ‘have you reconsidered paid time off, beyond the standard two weeks?’ Diversity, equity, and inclusion is also a big factor. Women want to know how the organization supports it and what efforts they’re proactively taking to address the issue.”

Given the findings of the report, Lisa Marie believes every company could benefit from a new type of leader: a devoted Chief People Officer. “Employees should have a first point of contact, beyond their direct manager, who serves as a go-to when someone is feeling stressed or their work-life balance is unmanageable, and I feel that is missing. We have counselors in schools and universities, but we don’t have that in the workforce. How are we helping our employees manage their workload? What are we doing to support them as they navigate tough personal life challenges?”

Lisa Marie’s people-centric approach values soft skills as much as more quantifiable hard skills. “Challenge yourself to think differently about performance management, she suggests. “Productivity is just one component of performance. Consider evaluating your team on other important skills, like their ability to collaborate and maintain a positive attitude toward others.”

Ultimately, Lisa Marie believes that with an everchanging workforce, the best leaders should always have an open mind.  “Empathetic leaders are constantly thinking about the culture they are creating and reinforcing a diverse and inclusive environment where women feel seen, heard, and connected.”