4 Ways HR Can Improve the Retention of Women in the Workforce


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Friday, March 9, 2018

Having a good balance of male and female workers is key for businesses, but how can companies ensure women want to stay with them?

Article 4 Minutes
4 Ways HR Can Improve the Retention of Women in th

One of the key challenges in recruitment has always been getting a balance of men and women in the workplace. There's been a great deal of research to better understand the obstacles female professionals face when trying to enter the workforce, which has left a big gap in many industries.

But once you've recruited people, how do you make them stay? Employee retention has been a key priority for many businesses over the past year and is a trend that is likely to continue well into 2018 and beyond. But is keeping women engaged any different from ensuring male employees are happy? And, if so, how can companies solve this age-old problem and secure female professionals for the long term?

Why are women leaving?

Studies show that more than half of women who start working at Fortune 500s leave before they reach executive level and many go on to start their own business or join start-ups. In 2012, women held 14.3% of executive positions at Fortune 500 companies but were paid just 75% of what their male counterparts were. This may help to explain the trend of female professionals leaving the workforce and certain companies.

However, this doesn't mean there isn't talent among women. Young women are just as likely to have a bachelor's degree and 50% more likely to have a graduate degree. It's clear that there's an organizational problem and unless businesses want their firm to be a revolving door for female professionals, they need to adjust their retention policies.

Here are four ways HR can improve the retention of women in the workforce:

1. Re-think your culture

What does your company culture prioritize? If you want millennials and women to remain with your business for the long term, you need to think about what you're like as an employer and what sort of working environment you're creating. Companies that rely on competition, putting in long hours, and generally outdoing the professionals around you, may struggle to retain women and younger workers.

You need to ensure your business is inclusive for women and other workers that don't fit into a typical corporate environment if you want to retain the best talent.

2. Flexible working

The typical 9-5 is a thing of the past for many younger workers and adjusting your practices can make it more welcoming for women. Starting a family is something that involves workers of both genders but the professional sacrifice often affects women a lot more than their male counterparts. This is something organizations need to think about if they want to boost their employee retention, especially with paternity leave becoming a must for many young workers.

Offering flexible working, whether this is working outside typical office hours or allowing people to work from home, can make you a much more accessible employer.

3. Celebrate skills over achievements

If you want employees - of any gender - to remain at your company for the long term, you need to recognize there may be a shift in their skillset. This is essential because as people age, start families, and generally mature, their priorities change and, if you want to keep their talent and experience within your business, you need to adapt alongside them.

Making it easy and straightforward for women to transfer their skills and move to other departments or roles will decrease the number of people leaving to find an employer that sits better with their ethos.

4. Provide support

For any employees that prefer to work in a non-traditional way, having a support system there for them can make a huge difference in allowing them to remain in your business. However, creating mentorship programs for women can have many other benefits too.

People tend to network with professionals of their own gender, meaning that it can be difficult to stop the cycle of men in executive roles making connections with predominantly male employees. Unless changed, this will continue to mean that men dominate higher-level roles in companies, so developing a network for female talent that benefits from male and female leaders can be essential.

Why should businesses put the effort in?

Aside from the moral benefits of being a more inclusive employer, there's a purely business-focused reason why you need women to stay in your organization. Research of Fortune 500 companies found that those with at least one female board member experienced significantly higher returns on equity (53%), better sales (42%), and a two-thirds greater ROI than those with all-male boards.

This makes ensuring that female employees are engaged in organizations a key business priority for firms if they want to compete with their rivals.

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