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Changing dynamics: Women’s influence on the workplace

By February 12, 2016Newsletters


This four-part series looks at the dynamics of today’s workforce and how demographic shifts and trends are impacting the workplace. In this article, we explore women’s influence on the modern workplace, and how companies are reshaping their benefits and policies to accommodate this growing segment.

With women now representing 47 percent of the workforce1, are you adapting your benefits and policies to meet the diverse needs of your organization? Employers who both understand and effectively address the personal demands and professional objectives of their employees can expect better retention rates and productivity.

Today, both men and women face challenges balancing work and family. And although men spend more time on childcare than they did ten years ago, women still juggle more family demands.2Companies whose policies and benefits accommodate this reality and the concerns that stem from it, stand to increase their competitive edge when it comes to hiring and retainingwomen in their workplace.

Stretch and flex

Flexibility was among the top three factors working mothers considered when choosing a new job — right behind job security and pay.3  Offering flextime to workers can become a retention tool, even a competitive advantage — for companies willing to trade tradition for a chance to meet women workers where it matters today.

Indeed attracting and retaining top talent means offering women flexibility in managing the times and places in which they work.  Employers increasingly recognize the value these options bring to their organizations in terms of improved productivity and reduced absenteeism. Companies who offer flex time is up from 66 percent in 2005 to 77 percent in 2012, and even more dramatically, those with flex place options have grown 85 percent, from 34 percent to 63 percent in the same time period.4

This type of work/life support works best when it’s implemented in a manner that addresses employees’ needs for flexibility and the company’s needs for productivity. Flexibility can be managed through HR policies, or made available on a discretionary basis. Either way, training is important for flextime arrangements to succeed. Managers and supervisors need guidance in how to be supportive of work and family and how to give workers more control over their work hours.

Increased maternity leave, increased retention

Fifty-eight percent of employees who give birth receive some form of pay during maternity-related leave (up from 46 percent in 2005), yet few employers provide full pay during maternity leave. In fact, only 9 percent of employers gave new mothers a full maternity-related disability salary in 2012, a drop from 17 percent in 2005.5 Research suggests the recession may have contributed this downward trend: a result of employers attempting to make the most of their reduced workforces.

But for companies that offer enhanced maternity leave benefits, the advantages can be significant.  For example, when Google recently increased paid leave to 18 weeks, the rate of new mothers resigning fell by 50 percent.6

What does a good program look like? On average, the Working Mother 100 Best Companies of 2014 offer eight fully paid weeks off for new birth mothers, three for new fathers and five for new adoptive parents.7

Benefit from benefits that offer protection and security

A Humana/LIMRA study, The Changing Face of the Employee, revealed that more than half of women are not satisfied with their current financial situation, and almost as many remain uncertain about the future. Women are also more likely than men to consider the workplace as a source of purchasing insurance products. They look to traditional employee benefits to provide protection for their families, and are interested in benefits like critical illness, supplemental medical, accident insurance and long-term care insurance.

Employers focused on meeting the needs of their female employees can provide information on these topics that is tailored to women’s specific needs and concerns. This can including encourage women to take advantage of educational opportunities offered by the company’s 401(k) vendor or through an Employee Assistance Program. Simply publicizing these resources can be a meaningful first step.

Creating a workplace that’s win: win

Understanding the needs and motivations of the modern employee and building relevant workforce strategies can help businesses drive a competitive advantage. As women increasingly lead in the workforce, companies will need to consider if their programs and policies are optimized to help all of their employees manage their personal and professional goals. In return, companies can expect improved engagement and loyalty, which can generate cost savings from reduced turnover and absenteeism.

Read other articles in the Changing Dynamics series:

Extending workplace wellness to remote workers

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