Six Strategies To Help Retain Female Talent Moving Forward
Founder & CEO of TONE Networks, a comprehensive SaaS platform addressing gender equity, professional development and well-being.
Events this year have transformed work as we know it. While organizations have scrambled to implement policies and initiatives to adapt to remote work, women — parents and caregivers in particular — have been especially hit hard. They’ve been navigating new work-from-home policies while ensuring children are occupied and engaged in virtual learning and family members are taken care of.
These extra tasks — on top of the pressure already created by the pandemic — has led many working women to feel increasingly detached and isolated, which has led some to consider other jobs or quit their jobs altogether.
With this in mind, I believe the longer the pandemic wears on, women could experience dips in confidence, which would further exacerbate the “confidence problem.” According to Bain & Co., within their first two years in the workforce, women become less confident about attaining top management positions. This drop isn’t an unfounded belief: Only 85 women are promoted or hired to a manager position for every 100 men, McKinsey & Co.’s 2020 “Women in the Workplace” report found. Moreover, many women lack a key resource they need to advance in early- to mid-career stages: mentorship at work.
It’s no surprise to me that attrition rates have skyrocketed this year. One in four women, in fact, are thinking of following suit or downshifting their roles.
For companies looking to retain women employees, the key in doing so lies in implementing strategies that are meaningful and that add value to the working woman’s career.
Create a culture of flexibility.
If the pandemic has taught the corporate world anything, it’s that office work can often be done remotely and on a flexible schedule. In today’s world, a truly flexible schedule isn’t quantified by time, but instead by results. By offering a flexible culture that prioritizes performance instead of face time and an arbitrary number of hours, you can help employees feel more engaged and even improve productivity. From my perspective, when your employees know you value their unique needs and understand that life can get in the way (especially right now), they will be more likely to value the company as well.
Offer equitable compensation.
Giving women equal pay is another critical step in closing the wage gap and improving retention among women workers. In 2020, women still earn 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. Although that number increases to 98 cents when you factor in several other factors, including job title, years of experience, industry and location, women are still less likely to be offered equity-based awards as compared to their male counterparts. If your company is in a position to offer equity-based awards, such as stock grants and options, ensure your women employees have access to them.
Educate yourself about the unique challenges women of color face.
Women face several obstacles when it comes to promotions and pay equity, but Latina and Black women face a larger disparity. Just 58 Black women and 71 Latina women are promoted to managerial positions for every 100 men, McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace” report also found. Moreover, Black women are being disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus this year.
Because Americans expect leaders to take a firm stance on social issues, companies must proactively assure their women and women-of-color employees that equitable practices to fuel their career success will be prioritized and an action plan put into effect.
Provide access to role models, sponsors and mentors.
While the 56% of Americans have had a mentor, there’s a disparity in the availability of mentors for women. According to a report by Lean In, “Less than a quarter of Black women feel they have the sponsorship they need to advance their career.” Black women are also less likely to be included in important conversations at work, thus giving them fewer chances to be noticed by people in leadership.
Many women struggle to advance to managerial roles, let alone rise to the C-suite, in part due to the lack of access to sponsors, mentors or resources. Take steps to employ scalable mentoring programs in your company. As a result, you can see improved retention and engagement.
Understand the challenges working mothers face.
Mothers are three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for a majority of housework and childcare during the pandemic, according to McKinsey’s study on women in the workplace. Many mothers are also worried their work performance is being judged negatively because of caregiving responsibilities.
Recalibrate your expectations, re-set your goals, extend deadlines and rethink performance evaluations. Empathic leadership will pave the way for future success at all levels of the organization.
Integrate diversity at all levels throughout your organization.
What gets measured gets managed. Diversity initiatives that are actionable and measurable must be fully integrated into all aspects of your organization and business. Diversity and inclusion initiatives work best not as its own department but rather as a priority and business objective in every department at every level.
To accomplish this, establish key performance indicators for your leaders to develop diverse talent at all levels of the pipeline, with a critical eye toward senior levels. For example, it is not enough to have your female workforce only at lower levels. Diversity must happen throughout the management hierarchy as well.
Multiple studies have shown that diverse leadership teams perform better, and one way companies can achieve this is by providing women with more opportunities to advance in their careers to visible leadership positions. When potential hires see themselves and their envisioned career path represented in the top levels of your organization, they’re more likely to want to join (and stay on) your team.
At the end of the day, employee turnover is expensive and negatively impacts your bottom line. Progress is ours for the taking. If leaders work to create workplaces that are flexible and innovative, all employees can succeed and emerge stronger and better than before.
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