If you spoke to any successful business leader, they likely wouldn’t argue with you if you said that retaining women in the workforce is important for the future of work if companies want to fully engage the talent available to them. The numbers show that by fully engaging women at work, the economy grows.
Well, then, why isn’t it happening?
The corporate world as we know it is changing—with a new millennial surge in the workforce and an increased engagement of women in the workplace, employees are leaving companies that don’t provide the things they care about: family leave, vacation time, flexible work. The companies that don’t listen to the needs of their people are falling behind because they lack the foresight to recognize that a fully engaged workforce will save them money in the long run by retaining their female employees.
Recently, Accenture, EY, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter and others made headlines by keeping these needs top of mind. Providing expanded parental leave policies, policing their internal wage gaps, offering more transparency and flex work in their day to day—these all display a sensitivity to their workforce, and just make business sense.
But there’s more to it than that. Regardless of gender, personal preferences or family plans, employees care about being compensated. They care about their quality of life. They care about the future of their career. They care about internal culture and building marketable skills for the future.
Salary and Title
Women have bills to pay, and they’ve worked hard to earn the position they’ve gained in their career. Not being compensated with a title and salary commensurate with their expertise is the first thing that will attract women to a position and company.
The easy answer to solving this problem is to pay women what they’re worth (and giving them the title too!) Having the courageous conversation of gender parity at work is daunting, but it’s an important step in keeping women engaged. But open and honest communication doesn’t always come from the top down. When every employee is empowered to talk about things like gender bias, office dynamics, and money, the veils can fall away and employees can understand better where they stand.
The largest percentage of women polled believe that women in leadership positions will help battle the gender pay gap. Having women at the table when making big company decisions is good for business in a lot of ways—but based on this research, having women in leadership seems to set a precedent that will help retain female employees. Seeing a woman in a leadership position at their company could demonstrate to female employees that they could have a future there, and inspires them to speak up and work towards a raise or promotion.
Manageable Work/Life Balance
We can all identify with feeling overwhelmed with our responsibilities; between workload and family life, it can be hard to prioritize. That’s why women, particularly working moms, often look for support from their companies when it comes to receiving flexible work hours. While working mothers prize flexibility at work and say it is “very or extremely”important, women who are not yet mothers also value their time and ability to work flexibly.
For millennials having their first child in particular, the length of parental leave has become a deciding factor for women looking for a new job, or when weighing the option of staying at their existing job. Moreover, more companies are trying to improve their internal work culture by providing “perks” like traveling nannies and egg freezing. While the intentions behind these initiatives are to make full-time work more appealing for female employees, we’ve found that women believe these perceived “perks” are in fact perpetuating an all-access, all-the-time culture.
In order to retain their female employees, companies need to find the right balance between flexible hours and time off, as well as the kind of perks women will find valuable. The best proven way to do this is to communicate; conducting surveys and listening to their employees’requests not only gives a company an idea of what’s lacking, but demonstrates to their employees that an inclusive and supportive internal culture is a priority.
We’re learning more and more from bright and successful women every day who care about their careers. Next, we’ll talk about another side of this conversation: the most important reasons why women stay at their companies.