Retaining women employees is a critical issue, especially in highly male-dominated industries. It helps meet rising talent demands and provides companies with the benefits of gender diversity, like increased financial performance and a more positive reputation. As women face disproportionate job losses due to COVID-19, it is even more pressing. Organizations must strive for a gender-equitable environment to support women’s career outcomes. Here are three research-backed tips for retaining women in male-dominated industries.
1. Retain from the Top Down
Retaining women at the top of the organizational ladder goes a long way in supporting your overall retention efforts because it gives women same-gender role models. In a study of women in STEM, researchers found that having female role models boosted retention rates by increasing both their performance and self-concept. To aid in retaining women at your organization, leverage the power of female role models, especially role models with similar attitudes and values.
2. Account for Gender Penalties in Rewards and Evaluations
Research shows that when women perform successfully in traditionally male-dominated spaces, they are more likely to receive negative reactions, such as being disliked by others. This directly impacts their workplace evaluations and their potential to be recommended for workplace rewards. In fact, researchers found that when men and women perform at equal levels in prestigious fields, women’s rewards (i.e., salaries, bonuses, and promotions) were significantly lower than those of their male counterparts. To avoid disadvantaging and potentially “pushing out” women employees, work to mitigate this bias in your evaluation and reward processes.
3. Foster a Flexible Work Environment
While all employees experience some benefits from flexible work arrangements, flexibility may be especially critical for retaining women. LinkedIn identified “good work-life balance” as one of women’s top priorities when considering job prospects. Research also suggests that women with children may need and value workplace flexibility the most. This makes sense given that working women are responsible for the bulk of childcare and domestic labor. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these disparities in unpaid domestic labor are likely exacerbated. To support and retain women, offer or extend flexible work cultures and options (e.g., flextime programs, telework arrangements, reduced work schedules, and leave policies).
The strategies are just a starting point for retaining women at your organization. Remember that numerous factors impact women employees’ work experience (like race, body size, and motherhood status). Thus, your organization will likely need to account for the unique barriers to retention for specific groups of women in your workforce.
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