Want to Retain Your Women Workers? Help Them Figure Out How

by Julie Graber | on 30 Oct 2020

It’s the kind of article that drives me nuts: Dear Working Women: Before You Go, Negotiate (like women need yet another thing to add to their to-do list).

The article is well-meaning, as they all are. But once again, the author puts the burden for action on the women. It's the same thing we tell women when it comes to negotiating their salaries. Do your research. Know your facts. Make the ask.

Yet the research tells us that even when women do ask, they are often less successful. And they risk censure from colleagues for acting outside of expected stereotypes. It's been nearly 20 years since we started telling women they have to ask to be treated fairly in the workplace, and the gender pay gap has barely budged. So much for negotiating it away.

It's time for companies to take the lead.

Don't expect your women workers to figure it all out for you. If you truly care about retaining the talent women bring to the table, offer them solutions.

  • Offer them childcare assistance in the form of stipends or arrangements for emergency coverage.
  • Adopt a company-wide policy regarding times when meetings, virtual or otherwise, can be scheduled, so that parents have more flexible options in determining their schedules.
  • Ask if additional administrative support would help. Many companies are penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to utilizing administrative resources. And women are more likely to try to handle administrative tasks for themselves - so be insistent - someone else can schedule meetings, generate notes, manage the teams with online tools. 
  • Ask what would help because you value what these women bring to the table.

You get the picture.

So let's flip the script.

Dear companies: Before your women workers go, offer them a work plan that benefits everyone. Identify their points of pain and be innovative with solutions. Provide examples of women who are taking advantage of flexible arrangements (and create an employee resource group for them so they have a way to connect with each other). Check in with them regularly to see how it's going and make adjustments as needed.

Don't just watch them walk out the door.

Tags:  In the News