It’s sad but true, there’s a notable absence of women in the workforce in top level positions after the age of thirty. Why? Well, the answer is fairly obvious I guess. While there have been quantum shifts in social trends with more women having children later; until biology catches up with society, the ticking clock is still a reality.
Thanks to miserable maternity packages, childcare deficit, and lack of opportunity, many women in their mid-late thirties are forced to choose between a career and a family.
While some women have started freezing their eggs and delaying having children until they’re ready, their business has taken off, or they’ve landed the promotion they’ve worked so hard for, many others are forced to disappear into the home and the background.
Far from wishing to provoke a discussion about the value of being a Stay-at-Home-Mom (it’s the hardest job on earth, after all); I know from personal experience that while some women willingly choose to stay at home with their children, others would rather return to work.
There’s only so many episodes of Curious George a woman can watch when she’s used to overseeing meetings or running companies. And companies need a female perspective at the top level to add diversity to their team.
In fact, some of the largest and most successful companies are ones that have women at the helm, including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and Ernst & Young. In an interview with CNBC, CEO of the Container Store, Kip Tindell reaffirmed his belief that women “make better business leaders than men.” With 70 stores, around 6,000 employees, and a massive $782 million in revenue in 2014 alone, Tindell seems to know what he’s talking about.
But I don’t need to carry on telling you about the so many obvious reasons why you need more women in your company; after all, I’m kind of preaching to the choir here. So what can be done to incentivize female workers to stay in their jobs or come back to the labor force after dropping out to have kids? Championing equality would be a good start. Here’s how:
1. Egg Freezing
There are many reasons why women might want to freeze their eggs for later use, or use donor eggs for procreation. But one of the main reasons is that they want to focus on their careers and put all that studying to good use.
Indeed, many forward-thinking companies, such as Apple and Facebook, are now blazing the trail in this area by offering to cover the cost of elective egg freezing. This is great news for a woman at the pinnacle of her career who’s simply not ready to have kids yet. You now have your employer’s support to ensure that you can have your cake and eat it too, by keeping your career and starting a family at a time that’s convenient to you.
2. Real Maternity Packages
It’s been widely documented that the United States tops the charts in offering the absolute worst maternity deals on the planet. If you’ve ever wondered what the USA has in common with Oman or Papua New Guinea, then it isn’t the climate, land mass, or religious beliefs – but the fact that their maternity leave packages are woefully meager, with the US trailing behind these two countries.
It’s simply not in the US culture to look after their female employees and encourage work/life balance. And yet companies that promote family culture are currently among some of the most successful.
It stands to reason then that the single largest obstacle keeping women out of the workforce in the USA is inadequate maternity packages. Some countries offer up to a year of paid maternity leave. But then again, some countries also prohibit hand guns and provide accessible healthcare for all. Given the current political panorama, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon in the USA.
But if offering lengthy paid leave is simply not an economically viable option for your company, how about making an unpaid leave option available as well? Time is one of the most undervalued commodities there is and yet it means everything to a woman and her newborn baby – and may even make a woman choose your company over the competition.
3. Flexible Schedules
In an interview with Wired.com, cofounder and CEO of PowerToFly, Milena Berry, says if you want to get more women working in tech, then you should let them work from home. There are many benefits to both male and female workers from flexible schedules. Not least because if you’re going to offer cutting-edge perks like egg freezing and supportive maternity packages, you’re going to need to follow through and offer schedules that actually allow women to be workers and mothers as well.
I don’t just mean a slight change from 9-5 to 8-4 here. Women need real, flexible schedules that will allow them to collect their kids from day care, attend parent/teacher meetings, and look after their sick child without having to worry about their job security.
If you’re concerned about your employees putting in the hours they should be, then don’t be. The work is still done and your employees are happier. It’s a win-win situation that lets your company attract female workers without having to offer higher salaries.
In fact, 86% of companies on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2014 offer flexible schedules of some kind.
4. Paternity Leave
All male Facebook employees are entitled to up to four months of paid paternity leave. So that’s why Zuckerberg always has a smile on his face. Could it be that he’s discovered the secret of a healthy and happy work/life balance (beyond the $35.7 billion net worth)?
Having a child and raising a child isn’t only down to the woman. In fact, it should be all about cooperation between both parents. Since paternity leave also benefits women, allowing the couple to coordinate their schedules and spend longer with their infants, this is one of the best ways of promoting gender equality and will go a very long way in attracting the best female talent.
5. Have Female Leaders
Going back to the case of the Container Store, it should be fairly obvious that women will be more attracted to a company if they can see their long term potential and career path there. Women are far more likely to want to work for your company and stay with your company if there are other females in the top ranks.
Not only has it been proven that women are better communicators than men, but diversifying your ranks can only be good for your company, and variety of all kinds will help your long term growth.