Request a demo
Back to Blog

Why women need a coach

April 22, 2021 - 9 min read


Jump to section

What the data say — Where do women grow more?

Why how women grow differently matters

Take action

Is it 1988 again? You might think so based on the participation rate of women in the workforce —  equal now to the rate 33 years ago. Companies have lost a lot of women. And companies will likely continue to lose women according to a study by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org. 

The challenges of the moment disproportionately affect women and have led to many leaving or scaling back their work. For companies looking toward the future, the importance of supporting women right now cannot be overstated.

The good news? When women have a coach, they reap benefits — just like men do. They build skills and achieve growth across a range of behaviors associated with both inspiring leadership and personal thriving. 

For example, women gain skills at the same rate as men in most leadership skill areas. They grow in meaning and purpose, job satisfaction, and life satisfaction. In fact, there is not a single skill where, when given a coach, men achieve higher growth than women. 

But, interestingly, there are areas where women grow more relative to men. Women may be disproportionately negatively affected right now, but they also have disproportionate potential to be positively affected by personalized support. 

BetterUp Labs looked at the experiences of 440 women who had BetterUp coaching access through their organizations. All were part of programs specifically designed to support women leaders. We compared the experience of these women against our general Member population. 

We tracked how these women used coaching — and changed through coaching — over a period of four months. 


Sign up to receive the latest insights and resources from BetterUp


What the data say — Where do women grow more?

The women receiving coaching grew more, achieving disproportionate results, in four areas: 

  1. Physical thriving
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Inclusive leadership 
  4. Employee experience


We also found that these women participated in 14% more sessions than the general Member population. That reflects a greater commitment to making use of the opportunity.

Why how women grow differently matters 

  • Women had outsized growth in self-awareness, and that might be critical. Women, more than men, gain a new sense of consciousness and self-understanding in coaching. This may be the key that unlocks their parallel outsized growth in physical thriving. With a coach, many women more fully realize the importance of self-care and their own physical well-being and have the opportunity to recognize how much they have not prioritized it. Coaching may help women see physical well-being as an equally valid priority and a necessary building block for showing up at their best and sustaining performance across all of life’s roles.
  • Women also grew disproportionately in inclusive leadership. One interpretation might be that coaching differentially opens awareness about inclusive behaviors. Historically, women have had to fight their own battle for air time, monitor to receive equitable judgment and treatment, and work to get their own seat at the table. Vigilant to their own performance and treatment, women may not have focused on how they as leaders can lift up others and include all voices. 
  • An alternative interpretation is that, for other reasons, men may be lacking in their growth in inclusive leadership. It’s a question that merits further exploration.
  • Coaching is also more tightly tied to the overall employee experience for women than for men. Combined with the data showing a gender gap in access to coaching, an interesting story emerges: women not only want coaching more, we are seeing that they use coaching more, and in some ways even benefit more. 

Take action

These data suggest that if your organization wants a safe bet on professional development investment, participation, usage, or engagement — give women coaches. If your organization is concerned with results and impact from a coaching investment — give women coaches. If your organization is concerned about the great female recession — give women coaches. 

Coaching makes a significant difference in how women experience the workplace. The report from McKinsey suggests that women’s perceptions about bias and judgment have been partially behind the mass exit from the workforce. Those pressures may be even higher for senior-level women. Imagine the impact it might have if the message women received from their organizations was more clearly shifted from “prove yourself” to “we support you”? 

We have an opportunity, now, to emerge from this crucible to new ways of work, new mindsets, and new approaches to the ongoing and systemic problems around gender. Like many have said, we won’t be going back to “normal”. Let’s take action now to design a better new normal. One where women get the support they need.

New call-to-action

Published April 22, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

Read Next

Diversity & Inclusion
6 min read | May 6, 2021

One reason your diversity initiative isn’t moving numbers

When organizations ignore the belonging piece of the DIEB puzzle, they often continue to have diverse representation issues — especially at the higher levels of the... Read More
Diversity & Inclusion
4 min read | February 25, 2021

How inclusive leadership impacts your entire business

The importance of diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion has never been more salient. Discover its impact on your team and your entire business. Read More
5 min read | December 23, 2020

The 3 big well-being drops (and recoveries) of 2020

BetterUp has been tracking member’s self-reported well-being across hundreds of thousands of coaching sessions with workers around the globe since mid-March of 2020. We might... Read More
Diversity & Inclusion
7 min read | June 23, 2021

What do working parents need? A supportive manager is a good start

Working parents were crunched in the pandemic, especially women. But being a working parent is always hard. A supportive manager can help. Managers are in an ideal position... Read More
Diversity & Inclusion
7 min read | October 19, 2021

For working parents, a return to work (and back again) is stressful

The process of returning to work and a feeling of normalcy has been slow, especially for parents. Navigating school and unpredictable shutdowns is hard as ever. Read More
Employee Experience
8 min read | December 15, 2021

Think your employees feel equally comfortable at work? Think again

Companies are embracing diversity and inclusion, but data shows that perceptions differ among minority groups about the climate of the workplace. Read More
Employee Experience
11 min read | April 7, 2022

Why taking a joke isn't the point

What happened at the Oscars was unprecedented — but it sparked conversations about when jokes go too far. And it’s more than one person that gets hurt. Read More
Research & Insights
9 min read | April 29, 2022

Having “too many” interests isn’t holding you back, it’s launching you forward

Data reveals that being exposed to and coached in multiple areas helps people learn and grow faster than those that focus on only a few areas. Read More
Diversity & Inclusion
13 min read | August 29, 2022

For true inclusion and belonging, focus on the locus

Research shows inclusion is a predictor of whether DEIB investments will drive results, for your employees and your bottom line. Individual sense of control matters. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.