In the Great Resignation taking place among workers, women have left their jobs in larger numbers than men. Their reasons include frustration over pandemic-related protocols, because they couldn’t find childcare or had to oversee children’s remote learning, or they simply longed for a change.
But now as companies face alarming labor shortages, employers are compelled to examine ways to lure women back into the workforce. To do so, they must adequately address the many endemic road blocks to women’s employment. A record number of the workforce has voluntarily left their jobs in the past months. But the quit rate for women has exceeded that for men — 4.1% compared to 3.4%.
Women have left their jobs in larger numbers for a variety of reasons — because of frustration over pandemic-related protocols, because they couldn’t find childcare or had to oversee children’s remote learning, or because they simply longed for a change. The pandemic forced or encouraged women to review their priorities and examine whether their professional lives were worth the time, effort, and oftentimes sub-standard compensation and absence of promotion opportunities.
But now, as companies face alarming labor shortages, employers must examine how to bring women back into the workforce. In doing so, they need to adequately address the many road blocks to women’s employment, several of which have been exasperated by the pandemic.
Here’s a list to get you started:
1. Provide genuine work time flexibility.
Workers generally have proven to employers that it’s possible to be productive when working from home —while also juggling care for children or elderly family members, coping with health issues, and attending important family events. Managers need to extend work-from-home options and refrain from treating women as if they’re making an inconvenient request when they want to attend to the demands of their family. Consider scheduling meetings mid-morning or early afternoon to accommodate school drop-off and pick-up times.
2. Increase paid family leave.
Women still bear the brunt of family emergencies and they shouldn’t be unfairly penalized for having to care for a family member during an emergency. By extending paid family leave to all employees, men could share the responsibilities of providing the care needed for family members. In addition, be sure to offer generous paternity leave as well as maternity leave, along with options to ease back into the full work schedule.
3. Subsidize day care.
Establish on-site day care or provide childcare subsidies. Companies who contract with a childcare center are often able to negotiate better rates than parents. Removing the burden of arranging and affording day care not only adds to the well-being of working mothers and their families but can also increase women’s allegiance to an employer.
4. Offer equal pay.
Disparities in pay between the genders have plagued women employees for too long. This schism is further exacerbated when you consider race in the equation: White women earn 78.4 percent, Black women earn 61.4 percent, and LatinX women 56 percent of what white men earn. Company leadership must commit to providing equal pay for women and men across the organization.
5. Put women on the leadership team.
When female job candidates see women in positions of leadership at your organization, it makes a powerful statement about opportunities at your company. Organizational leadership must pledge to create a more equitable, inclusive culture for women, set goals for expanding opportunities, and show accountability towards those goals. Women, and especially women of color, are promoted at rates far fewer than men and are underrepresented across the corporate ladder.
6. Hire blind.
Resolve to be gender-blind in recruiting and hiring. Mask gender information for job candidates in the initial selection process, and base decisions solely on education, experience, and skills. Put a diverse interview panel and selection committee in place.
7. Offer professional development opportunities.
Encourage and pay for advanced degrees or certifications to increase employees’ skills and leadership abilities. Define career pathways so that all employees, regardless of gender, understand the steps needed to attain each level of the organization’s hierarchy.
8. Initiate mentoring programs.
Pair women employees with someone in a position of power to advocate for them and help pave the way for their professional fulfilment. If a suitable mentor isn’t available internally, reach out to professional networks or women’s chambers of commerce.
Companies who genuinely support the women who work for them, and who understand that accommodating their roles as mothers and caregivers, will reap the rewards of having committed, productive, and faithful employees who contribute their passion and energy to the organizational culture.