Helping Women Stay Engaged Through Their Parenting Years

Plugging the Leaky Pipeline

When we talk about the leaky pipeline, we refer to workforce attrition, especially pertaining to women and minorities in senior positions. However, the incidence persists at every stage of a woman’s career path. 

While the leaky pipeline is commonly attributed to gender bias and discrimination, deeper issues are at play. Despite stated efforts to champion diversity and close the gender gap, employers continue to deprioritize female candidates based on the assumption they will become pregnant or make other significant life changes and leave the workforce. 

Data released by the American Bar Association showed that only 24% of attorneys who argued cases before the Supreme Court in 2009 were women. Ten years later, that number rose to 28% – not a significant increase by any stretch. 

Perpetuating the Leaky Pipeline

Beyond outright sexism, posited reasons for women leaving the workforce include imposter syndrome, the glass ceiling, maternity leave, and personal life changes that could interfere with professional ambitions.

Interestingly, women hold more advanced degrees than men—almost twice as many. They also make up at least half the workforce. Case in point—over the past two years, women have dominated the frontlines of Covid-19 response efforts and contributed to society in countless ways. Yet, they remain underrepresented in leadership and decision-making roles. 

According to McKinsey:

  • Women account for half of the world’s population but contribute only 37% to the global GDP
  • Global GDP could increase by $12 trillion by 2025 if we narrowed the gender gap
  • 90% of CEOs in S&P 500 companies are promoted from line roles
  • But only 20% of women senior VPs hold line roles

If trends continue along current trajectories, it will take a century for us to achieve gender parity. When you juxtapose the current labor crisis against the numbers of capable, educated, highly-skilled women in the workforce, there is a tremendous untapped opportunity. With the right strategies in place, employers can engage this group to solve their talent shortfalls and reap the bottom-line benefits of workplace diversity.

Why Does the Leaky Pipeline Persist?

In a post-pandemic phenomenon referred to as the “she-cession,” two million American women lost their jobs, accounting for 63% of all jobs lost. By 2022, male workers had regained all the jobs they lost. Women recovered less than 200,000, creating a 1.8 million job gap that will likely never close.

As many employers attempt to return to the pre-pandemic status quo, women are at an even greater disadvantage. Childcare is still challenging, and public health policy around schools and vaccinations is unclear. Some families still struggle with health concerns, aging parents, and financial recovery. As the primary caregivers, women have a lot on their plates, but their desire for a fulfilling career and the need to work has not changed. 

Unfortunately, “traditional” work environments and schedules are not designed for mothers. Employers are often more focused on in-office hours than results, resulting in a lack of flexibility. 

Employers may not invest in women because of the assumption that they will get pregnant and leave or be forced to quit so they can focus on home and family. This dynamic is damaging both to the employer and employee, as when women do not feel valued, they will be less engaged. 

Think about it. If you knew that any significant life changes, like pregnancy or childcare, meant you would lose your job, you would probably treat that position as temporary. 

There is still a strong bias against mothers as they are seen as less committed to their jobs. But what impetus is there for a woman to remain in a position if there are no clear career paths?

How to Engage, Enable, and Empower Women Through Their Parenting Years

Women are a powerful asset in the workforce. Studies show that women are more productive than men, given an equal amount of work. Employers stand to gain a boundless wealth of knowledge and innovation if they can engage, enable, and empower women through their parenting years. 

Here are four ideas you can apply to your recruiting strategy to attract and retain this underserved demographic:

  1. Provide flexible, remote work

Studies show that women are 32% less likely to quit their jobs if they can work remotely. Most of the two million women who were forced to leave employment in the wake of the pandemic did so because they were the primary caregivers at home. That decision was not made lightly. For many, the situation has not changed significantly in that they are still caring for children, running the household, or overseeing the welfare of aging parents. Remote work options allow women the flexibility for childcare during work hours and shape their workday around specific tasks. Additionally, studies show that working from home can increase productivity by up to 77%, a clear signal to employers that such a strategy is good for business. 

  1. Provide paid maternity leave

The current talent crisis has many employers reconsidering benefits and compensation to attract and retain top talent. Providing paid maternity leave signals that you value women’s skills and contribution and are willing to invest in their wellbeing. The security of having a job to return to after maternity leave ends is a strong motivator to stay with a company. Otherwise, women are forced to choose between their family and career, putting the employer at a significant disadvantage. 

When you look at the cost and risk of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees, an investment in paid maternity leave is significantly less. Outsourcing to temporarily cover the position or redistributing the workload to available staff is a more viable option. Your employee will likely be thrilled to come back when their leave is over. 

  1. Provide lactation rooms (and paid breaks to use them)

Being a new mother comes with many changes. The Break Times for Nursing Mothers law falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act, requiring employers to offer accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work. Under the law, companies must provide a private room that is not a bathroom and break time to pump. The room does not have to be elaborate, but it should be private, lockable, and adequate in size to accommodate a chair and a flat surface for the pump. Smaller companies may be exempt from some of the rules under the act, but adopting the terms despite any exemptions sends a message of support that won’t go unnoticed.

  1. Train and mentor women

A clear career path and opportunities for professional development are strong motivators to stay with a company. According to data released by Bain & Co., women who are not promoted or advanced in their first two years with a company will become less confident in their positions. A McKinsey report supports this finding, showing that only 85 women are promoted to a top position for every 100 men. 

Employers have an opportunity to turn this around by providing career mentorship and skills advancement opportunities. The benefits of doing so go beyond preventing attrition and include higher engagement and productivity. The women you invest in will inevitably go on to pay it forward by inspiring and empowering other women employees. 

Final Thoughts

Applying the above strategies benefits both employers and the women who work for them. When you invest in women and help them stay engaged through their parenting years, you’ll retain more good employees, avoid high turnover costs, and realize the full potential of your workforce. 

No woman should have to choose between earning and parenting. Investing in women today builds value, loyalty, and stability in the organization, and that’s always good for the bottom line. 

The System Is Stacked Against Moms, But We Can Change That

The system supports men, not women, and that is a challenge women are ready to address. Our current system keeps women in “traditional” roles where they are paid less (if they stay in the workforce at all), but we cannot allow this to continue. When childbearing is a barrier to earning, talented and knowledgeable women are discouraged from financially supporting their families.

At Stay in the Game, we believe women do not need to accept this reality. We can change it, which is why we provide flexible and remote work opportunities to keep women employed through the child-rearing years and beyond. When we put in the effort to support equal pay for equal work, we create a space where everyone can thrive—including women of all ages!

Stay In The Game provides opportunities for competent, educated individuals who have been out of the workforce. Now, they can get back in the game and put their talents to work. We offer jobs, training and community support. For more information, please visit our website https://stayinthegame.net/ or contact us at info@stayinthegame.net.