After the percentage of working women trended upward decade after decade in the 20th century, it peaked in the year 2000 at nearly 60 per cent and has been declining ever since.
Now only about 57 per cent of American women age 16 and over are part of the labour force or actively seeking work — about the same percentage that was working in the 1980s. And among the women that are staying in the workforce, many are dissatisfied with their jobs and/or are looking elsewhere.
Millennials, in particular, are much more likely to change jobs than their baby boomer counterparts, with workers between the ages of 25 and 34 staying at a job for an average of just 3 years. So why are these millennials, particularly women, leaving their jobs, or the workforce altogether?
The childcare conundrum
More and more women are choosing to stay at home with their children over working outside of the home, some by choice, some out of necessity. According to Lynette Fraga, Executive Director of Child Care Aware of America, childcare is the biggest household expense in most regions of the country.
The average cost for full-time infant care ranges from $4,863 a year in Mississippi to $16,430 in Massachusetts. For many mums (and dads), the cost of childcare is too high in relation to the wages they earn. And it doesn’t necessarily help that the U.S. is one of the only industrialised nations that doesn’t require paid family leave for new mothers.
Lack of advancement opportunities and poor culture
LinkedIn surveyed over 4,000 women who had recently changed companies to try and get to the bottom of what makes a woman decide to leave one employer for another. Surprisingly, work/life balance was not in the top 3 reasons. The top reasons those women left their companies were due to a concern for the lack of advancement opportunity, dissatisfaction with senior leadership, and dissatisfaction with the work environment/culture. Despite what popular culture may have you believe about “lazy” millennials, LinkedIn found that lack of advancement opportunities was the top reason millennial women leave a job. (Dissatisfaction with senior leadership was #1 for Gen Xers and baby boomers.)
Women will stick around when they feel valued
It’s in your best interest to have smart, talented individuals in your organisation, and at least half of those rock stars you want on your team will likely be women. But if you create an environment that doesn’t feel inviting to them or in which they don’t feel they have equal opportunities, trust me, they will look elsewhere.
Give the women in your organisation the tools and resources they need to navigate their career path and provide clear paths to advancement. Development programmes and mentorships with senior leaders can help women feel empowered and more engaged in their work. Also, consider implementing special groups like Lean In Circles; they can help women and men grow professionally and provide peer support and encouragement.
What big tech companies are doing (that you can too!)
It’s no secret that there remains a lack of diversity in the tech industry, but many top companies are making huge strides in tackling it. Industry leaders like Google, Facebook, and Salesforce have been making public declarations to change the way they hire, pay, and promote, and hope to create a more welcoming environment for women and minorities. Salesforce, for example, implemented a process in which at least one female or underrepresented minority candidate is interviewed for all executive positions. Now 19 per cent of Salesforce executives are women — an increase of 27 per cent from 2014.
To improve their work/life balance and keep more new parents in the workforce, Etsy has just announced a practically unheard of new leave policy. Employees of the online marketplace will now be eligible for 26 weeks of fully paid leave when they become a parent (mother or father) through birth or adoption. Etsy designed the new policy to be flexible and benefit all new parents, regardless of gender. This is a huge step in encouraging new parents to return to work and also helps break down the barriers that traditional gender roles create in families and business.
Another heavy-hitter in the industry is making big strides for working women — and this one may surprise you. Despite their series of risqué commercials a few years back, GoDaddy is now putting an emphasis on encouraging and inspiring their female employees, with bi-quarterly events that feature inspirational women and/or highlight women’s rights issues. The company has also changed their recruiting practices to include more women. They increased the number of female engineering interns and new graduates from 14 per cent in 2014 to 39 per cent in 2015 — one of the highest percentages in the tech industry.
In an interview with LinkedIn, Auguste Goldman, Chief People Officer at GoDaddy said, “Recruiting women into tech is a great topic for GoDaddy to lead on. Our history allows us to have a stage. We are the ones that maybe you don’t expect, which is allowing us to have a real voice on this. And we take that obligation very seriously.”
No matter what type of business you’re in, your organisation needs gender diversity to stay competitive. And as millennials now make up the majority of today’s workforce, you need to understand how to engage millennial women and cater to their unique needs.
Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens