The upward mobility of women, whether in corporations, academia, medicine, finance, and most other fields, is still a chronic problem in the United States. Let’s review some reasons (and possible solutions) for why this is the case.
One recent study emphasized that in the current post-COVID remote work economy, “women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same. To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies need to go beyond table stakes.” https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace
Equal Pay is not just a catchphrase. It is the much-needed recognition that all women deserve the same financial remuneration as men.
While more women are now CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, they still only run 7.4% of these companies. In an article in Fortune written in 2020, the author noted that many of these women were new to their positions, and only three were black. Further, most of these women leaders were employees of smaller companies located toward the bottom of the Fortune 500. https://fortune.com/2020/05/18/women-ceos-fortune-500-2020/
Many employed women are striving for more significant challenges in their workplace, often requiring some degree of advancement. If that advancement does not occur, many women, as noted above, will look to move elsewhere for employment. Advancement might happen, but it could follow a path leading to the glass cliff. “The glass cliff refers to the fact that many women are assigned precarious leadership positions.” Male or female, the glass cliff position could have goals or risks that are precarious at best, leaving the employee who accepts the position at risk of failure and possibly losing a job. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S104898431500123X
For organizations that wish to retain their female employees, the above concerns need to be addressed, as does the impact of belittling aggression, sexual advances, and the continual questioning of judgment women experience. These behaviors harm female employees, many of whom serve as mentors and guides to facilitate inclusion, teamwork, diversity, equity, and well-being in the workplace. This additional level of effort at work typically leads to burnout and the need to find other employment. Simple recognition and support would go a long way toward retaining these women. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace
Flexibility has been noted in several studies since 2020 as one of the most important factors for women at work. Fortune magazine noted in a survey of 5000 women in 10 countries that “94% believe that requesting a flexible work arrangement will negatively affect their likelihood of promotion, and 90% believe employers will not adjust workloads. if they request flexible working arrangements.” Employers need to consider this: “Studies repeatedly show that offering flexibility around when and how someone works to make employees not only happier but more productive,” says Lorraine Hariton, president & CEO of Catalyst, a global nonprofit accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion. “It’s most impactful for women, but I like to say workplaces that work for women work for everyone.” https://www.forbes.com/lists/female-friendly-companies/?sh=22e3e4264dcd
In summary, most employees seek stability and challenges in their chosen positions. To retain female employees, reputable organizations must address these fundamental concerns:
- Keep gender out of the business model.
- Have equitable salaries and wages. Glass ceilings have no place in today’s economy.
- Where possible, flexibility is a significant key to hiring and retaining women.
- Hire and promote based on ability, work history, and need, keeping diversity in mind.
- Eliminate any glass cliffs in the organization.
- Support and recognize those employees that put in the time to make the workplace a better place for everyone.
- Childcare assistance, either through remuneration, flexibility, or in-house daycare.
- Create more diverse and inclusive boards to help steer your organization’s future.
This writer hopes you notice that what is required to retain women in organizations is similar to what most men assume will occur at any reputable workplace.