Today, 78 percent of large companies are actively trying to recruit more women. In the pursuit of this goal, they are reassessing their recruiting practices, building more inclusive cultures, introducing new initiatives to close the gender pay gap and are creating support groups and other innovative programs that female talent find attractive.
This is all much-needed and much-wanted progress. Yet, once women come into the workplace, what are companies doing to retain them?
Currently, 55 percent of millennial women (those born between 1982 and 2004) change jobs every 1 to 3 years. On the other hand, men are less likely to job hop. We could chalk the gap up to stereotypes; do millennial women possess less loyalty than their male counterparts? Perhaps they are afflicted with greater levels of impatience and entitlement?
Or, we could see if for what it is: companies aren’t built with women in mind and millennial women are no longer willing to morph to fit the male molds of business.
Men have dominated the business world since the industrial revolution. It has been their voices that have designed and shaped companies, and it is for their benefit that policies and cultures were first established.
This singular focus has been in play for generations. It has entrenched unconscious bias against women, leading to negative consequences that women in the workplace continue to grapple with. For example:
- Experiments have shown that a woman’s name atop a resume makes the candidate less competent, even when their resume is identical to a male candidate’s application.
- Seasoned recruiters encourage women to not wear their engagement ring when interviewing as to not elicit assumptions about their lack of focus on the job or need of extra time off for the honeymoon.
- Successful businesswomen suddenly find their talents questioned once they become pregnant, take maternity leave or adopt flexible working schedules.
To change this narrative, companies have been developing solutions with women in mind — be it extended maternity leave programs, flexible work options, job sharing initiatives or revamped people policies that are better aligned with women’s lives. These programs are necessary and are key when women choose one employer over another.
Yet, how impactful will any of these programs be if a manager continues to see women’s career ambitions as limited by marital status? Or to see their involvement in the workplace as a short-term hobby until they decide to become full-time soccer moms? Or that their family’s dependence on their salary is minimized because men, not women, are “breadwinners”?
It’s a critical question to ask, especially when millennial women prize career progression as the most attractive trait a company can offer. The lack of progressive opportunities is why 49 percent of women leave their jobs or are actively looking for a new opportunity.
So, if you want to retain female talent and encourage their progression for the benefit of your organization, you’ll need to give them this one thing:
More specifically, support through different life stages.
While both men and women follow similar life cycles, women do so more visibly. Women wear the engagement ring. Women sport the baby bump. Women carry the toll of cultural and social expectations for each of the roles they behold — be they singletons, wives or mothers.
Each stage of a woman’s life comes with social, emotional and physical challenges of which they will need the support and understanding from managers as well as the freedom to grow and experiment.
Help young female talent see the opportunities the company offers by actively and publicly supporting talented women; let them lead key projects or promote them to progressive roles.
Instead of assigning “housekeeping” tasks to female talent, take the time to mentor and nurture them as to find strengths that can be used to benefit the team.
Before handling expectant mothers with kid gloves, take the time to understand what she’d like to accomplish ahead of taking her maternity leave. You could offer a new mother a flexible working arrangement upon her return, but instead, you should ask her what would best fit her life and her career goals.
And, instead of denouncing a working mother as distracted or not committed to her job, take the time to see how her capabilities and life experience could best be leveraged to progress projects.
Offering this support through each of life’s stages will not only benefit women, it will allow companies to better leverage their female talent at every stage of their career and life. Doing so will create a strong talent pool from which senior leaders can be groomed to help lead the organization.
What’s more, the support offered to women will be critical for men as they evolve their roles at home and at work.
Lisa Durante is a working mama who believes in the power of AND. She offers strategies and insights, as well as resources and programs to help you design a career and life that works for you as a working mom. Get new tips and free resources every week at LisaDurante.com.