Many individuals in the business world refer to a phenomenon called the “leaky pipeline.” This is based on a 2012 study of women in the workplace which looks at why women are less likely to reach senior management positions and the elusive c-suite. Many women leave the workforce at different points in their career, and there are quite simply fewer women available to take the high powered jobs that drive much of American industry. In order to bring women into the highest echelons of the business world, we need to understand the reasons that they leave.
Bad leave policies
Women often leave the work force due to leave policies that don’t honor the difficulties of balancing a family in the modern world. Many employers assume that this means that women leave the workforce in order to have children, but this has not been supported by research.
The majority of women would like to come back to their job after a baby is born – if the job is supportive and allows them to meet the needs of both their career and their family.
Leave policies also do not relate solely to having babies. Both men and women are often in positions where they need to care for elderly friends or relatives, get to appointments for their own health, or work from home if their children are ill. Workplaces that offer policies to facilitate these options do a better job of retaining employees over time.
No room for self-improvement
Women, like men, want to do better at their jobs. They want to learn new skills, improve on their weaknesses, shore up their strengths, and generally continue to do a better job at their job. When they are at jobs where they can’t do these things, they do not enjoy their work.
There are many frustrations that may get in the way of encouraging employees to develop their skills. Sending them to conferences and classes can be expensive, and it can be difficult to schedule time for one-on-one meetings or online trainings. However, if you want employees to continue to be satisfied in their jobs, making these things happen is absolutely essential.
Employees, women especially, want to continue to be challenged and learn the skills necessary for them to continue to progress in their field. If you don’t make it possible for them to do in their current job, they will find a new opportunity.
Better opportunities elsewhere
If a company is not competitive in terms of policies, compensation, benefits, or overall company culture, then it will be difficult to retain employees overall. Many Millennial women understand that they are highly valued at certain companies, and may be unwilling to stay in a place where their perspective and talents aren’t desired.
If another company can reach millennials and offer them a better compensation package, they are much more willing to switch jobs; Millennials overall switch companies at much higher rates than their elders.
Many companies make the mistake of thinking that this idea of compensation is only about a salary. In fact, Millennials tend to be much more interested in programs like loan forgiveness, work from home flexibility, and educational programs that help them continue to develop their skills. These programs can ultimately be less expensive than dumping money into salaries, especially if they don’t help you retain employees.
Poor management affects all companies, but given the willingness of Millennial women to leave a job and start over again somewhere new, having a bad manager is a terrible choice. Bosses who aren’t at least managing their employees well are demotivating, cost the company money, and end up causing the best employees to leave.
Many Millennials rate the experience of working with a great manager as one of the primary reasons they try to work with a certain company or team. Managers that can help develop a person’s skills are considered to be crucial for their overall career development. This may be especially true for women, who struggle to find appropriate mentors and guides within their industry.
By making sure that managers are good at their jobs and lead their teams well, companies can make sure that the are retaining their best employees, both men and women.
While we often talk about the reasons why women leave the workforce or change companies, it’s important to understand that, in many ways, women leave for the same reasons men do. Women don’t inherently leave their jobs and the workforce because of pregnancy or children. Understanding why they do leave the workforce will help companies make real progress in retaining women and closing the leaky pipeline for good.
What does your company do to attract and retain millennial women employees.