Here is a statistic that could explain the huge drop in the number of women in senior technology positions: new data shows that companies place recruiting and retaining women dead last among reasons for implementing workplace flexibility initiatives. That’s right, only 1% of companies surveyed stated that recruiting and retaining female employees was a factor in developing workplace flexibility and family-friendly initiatives. But if companies don’t change their cultures to recruit women and retain their female employees, they may risk losing them.
The study, a new report jointly released by Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), surveyed employers with 50 or more employees, 75% for-profit and 25% non-profit companies. The survey paints a pretty grim picture in terms of flexibility for women who take maternity leave and have children. The study found substantial decreases in employers permitting at least some of their employees to return to work gradually after childbirth or adoptions (86% in 2005; 44% in 2012), take a career break for personal or family reasons (73% in 2005; 52% in 2012), and move from full-time to part-time work and back again while remaining in the same level at the organization (54% in 2005; 41% in 2012). And among the of employers that pay any disability related to childbirth (58% of companies), far fewer now give full pay (9%, down from 17% in 2005).
However, employers are increasingly allowing their employees to take off time during the workday to attend to important family or personal matters without losing pay (77% in 2005; 85% in 2012) and occasionally work some of their regular paid hours at home (34% in 2005; 63% in 2012).
Nevertheless, it’s clear that the recession has severely impacted the flexibility afforded to working moms and female employees taking maternity leave. Financial constraints have caused companies to expert more from work and less work-balance from their employees, but this increases the likelihood of losing great female employees, especially moms.
According to influential HR adviser and marketer Kevin W. Grossman, there needs to be a culture shift around how companies recruit female candidates and how they keep female employees.
“[Companies] need to recruit from bigger candidate pools and advertise positions more neutrally, removing stereotypes and culture references that tell “diverse” candidates to stay away,” Grossman writes. “When hiring, make sure that at least one woman is in the running for every tech job as well as being a part of the recruiting and hiring management teams.”
Work flexibility is certainly not the only way to recruit and retain women, but it is a high indicator that a company is willing to take a long-term investment in a female employee’s success. Especially in male-dominated industries with long hours like finance and tech, showing a commitment to work-life balance for women with families could have a major impact on the number of women who stay in the industry after having a family. Furthermore, having successful female employees involved in the recruiting process and mentoring new female employees could create a cultural shift that nurtures women and encourages them to grow with the company long term, rather than leave the company when their work-life flexibility requirements are not met.