Women face unique challenges in all aspects of their lives and their careers certainly aren’t an exception. You’ve heard time and time again that women earn, on average, 79 cents for every dollar that men earn (and just to be clear, that’s white women—it’s 64 cents for black women and 54 cents for Hispanic women). But is it true? Do women really get paid 20 percent less than men? Yes. For doing the same job and hours? Not exactly. But in our culture, women are typically expected to take on most of the burden of child-rearing, which can limit their career options. So, what can you, as an employer, do to help?
1.) Provide Paid Maternity Leave
The United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t require paid maternity leave. While the 1993 Federal Medical Leave Act allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth or other medical issues, many women can’t afford to lose 12 weeks of pay and take much less time. In many other nations, 12 weeks of paid maternity (and paternity!) leave is the norm, and some countries offer more. This time gives expectant and new mothers time to recover from childbirth, as well as essential mother and child bonding time. Organizations that offer their employees this basic necessity have an advantage—they’re more likely to acquire and retain top female talent.
2.) Provide Childcare
The monthly childcare costs for a two-child household now exceeds the cost of rent in most of the country. For some families, annual childcare cost is roughly the same as the cost of a year’s tuition at a four-year university. This means mothers deciding whether or not to return to the workforce after leave have to ask themselves—is it worth it? For most families, it makes financial sense for one parent to stay home, and it’s usually the mother, since men tend to make more money. While taking time off to raise children might actually save money, it can make it harder for women to re-enter the workforce later. They’re not just giving up income for that time period—they’re giving up seniority, skills and connections—which can make it more difficult to pick up where they left off in their career later. While there are significant hurdles to providing childcare—costs, regulations and insurance concerns—it might be worth it if your company can afford it.
3.) Provide Flexibility
In 2011, More magazine asked women the following question:
If you could have one of the following, which would you pick?
• A promotion
• A raise
• Another week of vacation
• Flexibility in your day
The respondents overwhelmingly went with flexibility. More found that “seventy-five percent of college-educated women aged thirty-five to sixty would rather have more free time in their lives than make more money at their jobs.” 40 percent said that they’d even take a pay cut for more flexibility.
Companies that provide flexible work options—such as flextime, working from home, job sharing, telecommuting and compressed work schedules—offer talented workers, especially parents, work-life balance, as well as an incentive to stay with the company.
There are many more ways to attract and retain top female talent, but assessing your company’s policies on maternity leave, childcare and schedule flexibility is a great start. And if you’re looking for new talent, reach out to the experts at TalentBridge today!