How to Address Attrition of Female Employees

Companies that aren’t working effectively to bring more women and minorities into positions of power will be doomed to stagnate because they are artificially limiting their access to talent” (Nancy Novak, AGC Board Member)

In 2019, men held 74% of S&P 500 board seats, while women held 26%. Out of the top 200 companies in the S5P 500, only 6% of the seats were occupied by women of color.  In this blog, we explain why women are historically undermined in the business world and what companies can do to become progressively appealing to future generations. 

Women have a harder time excelling in higher positions because of the different choices they are required to make in order to stay afloat in their personal lives. Advocating for women’s equality in the workplace is about supporting equal opportunities and equal pay. Glass ceilings affect over half of the population in regards to the hiring and promotion process because marginalized communities are still being undermined in the workplace. Many times its implicit bias that holds women back from getting hired or receiving promotions. If companies reevaluate the way they perceive diversity in leadership positions, their success rates will flourish. Women are more determined to support and enforce diversity and inclusion policies, making the workplace safer as well as benefit the economy by including the talent and skills of over half of the population. 

It is key for businesses to understand why they lose talented female employees along the way, so we have identified some key issues that are contributing to the gender gap and some ways to address them. We believe the key to long-term business success is not just hiring women, but retaining and promoting them over time.

Family vs Career

Women are often placed on a tightrope, feeling the need to choose between caring for their families and their careers---specifically in male-dominated industries. Particularly in fields like construction and technology, relocation is a key issue in regards to diversity in the workplace. Frequent relocation causes financial and personal stress and creates a chaotic lifestyle that is often invisible to upper management. If one is moving for work every couple of years, the employee must find new schools, new doctors, new banks, new friends, new clubs, new churches, new homes, new friends, and more. Studies show that the decision to relocate is based on traditionally accepted gender roles, in which men’s careers are prioritized in family migration decisions, regardless of the net change in household income.

There is often the additional burden in a two-income home of trying to match a partner’s earning power in a move. Men tend to be attached to the idea of the social norm being that they need to be the breadwinners of the household. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in one in four heterosexual married couples women make more than their male partners; however, subconsciously, the traditional mindset of men needing to earn more than women is still very much alive. When faced with choosing a job with more pay that involves relocation (or frequent moves), a female employee will opt-out simply to keep stability in her home and family life. Some employees opt to wait until they are at a management level to start a family with the idea that relocation will be less necessary and they will have more stability.  For women, however, this puts them in the 30 year range where they have only a few years to physically have children before it becomes exponentially more dangerous each year. Companies usually do not respond favorably to the decision to start a family at the same time as starting a new project. This process puts women in a position that men never think to put themselves in---a family or a career. 

Wage Gap, Education, Opportunities 

Historically, women have required higher levels of education to receive the same amount of interest as their male counterparts for the same job. The lack of opportunities given to women in comparison to men is visible in almost every male-dominated industry. The Center For American Progress reported that “so-called women’s jobs, which are jobs that have historically had majority-female workforces, such as home health aides and child care workers, tend to offer lower pay and fewer benefits than so-called men’s jobs, which are jobs that have had predominantly male workforces, including jobs in trades such as building and construction.” It is clearly evident in the construction industry that a man without a formal education can obtain a salaried position to supervise or inspect work far easier than a woman. In general, men make 20 cents on the dollar more than women for the same work and performance. This is true even if the woman can show she has superior qualifications. Studies show that between 2017-2018 women earned more than half of bachelor’s degrees(57.3%), master’s degrees(60.1%), and doctorate degrees(53.5%).

Women are not only eager to climb to C-level positions, but they are often more qualified than their male competitors. This negatively affects the global economy. Studies show that ”If the gender wage gap had been closed entirely, this would have meant an additional $545.7 billion in the pockets of working women and their families—about $9,613.13 per woman—to cover student loan payments, mortgage payments, child care costs, prescription costs, groceries, emergency expenses, and more.” It’s time to change the narrative and culture of the business world to advocate and promote employees of marginalized communities to benefit the success of the company and the economy.

With these issues, the question becomes “what can be done?”  

  1.   Accept the fact that women are different and they have different needs.  While this may sound counter-intuitive to the idea of treating all employees equally, it is actually best to be gender blind concerning abilities and gender-aware concerning needs.
  2.   Try to minimize relocation for employees and reward the ones who relocate upon command to conquer projects near and far with incentives to make up for the chaos and financial strain.  This benefits employees of all genders and significantly increases retention.
  3.   Be understanding about a family’s needs surrounding daycare hours of operation---the expense of daycare and the concern over the quality of care.
  4.   Be excited and supportive when an employee wants to have a child, especially for women.
  5.   Make 2 weeks paternity leave mandatory (in addition to maternity leave!) to show support for families.  
  6.   Look at the value of roles that are predominantly female and the roles that are predominantly male and level the pay scale.  If you consider your office manager or accountant as valuable as your forklift operator or data analyst, you need to pay accordingly.

The benefit of tackling these steps is that they benefit employees of all genders and backgrounds.  This creates a better, more inclusive work environment while increasing retention and improving employee morale.