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For any institution, it is more expensive to train new talent than to offer the flexibility that academics need to continue their careers. Human talent is one of the most important resources for companies, organizations, and universities. An important part of this talent is made up of women.
In Australia, 54.7% of professors or professors of medium and low rank are women, In Canada, it is 41%, in Europe 41.3%, and in the United States 49.7%. This number drops dramatically as you advance to leadership positions. Only 33.9% of Australian female professors are at senior level; in Canada only 28% are high-ranking professors; and in the case of Europe, only 23.7% of women are in higher-level positions. In the United States, just 34.3% hold high positions in educational institutions.
If there are so many women in the middle and lower positions of colleges and universities, what happens on their way to the highest level positions? Why do so few make it? What is different about women’s professional careers compared to their male peers?
Even in the second decade of the 21st century, this problem continues to impact the professional careers of many women. Universities have not yet found a way to make the most of the potential of academic women because two important transitions for women into the academic work culture have not yet been efficiently integrated: motherhood and menopause.
Women end up disappearing from universities when it’s time to move up to better job positions because they’re busy starting a family or adjusting to the changes that aging brings. There is no social and work culture that gives them effective support. In the past, any woman who aspired to have a family had to choose between family and her career.
Today, we know that this imposed social custom puts professional women at a systematic disadvantage compared to their male counterparts, but more than that, in the case of universities, it deprives these educational institutions of at least half of their producers and broadcasters of knowledge.
It’s Not Special Treatment, It’s Talent Retention
One of the biggest arguments against the implementation of more flexible policies for maternity and paternity periods is that these efforts are read as privileges, as special treatment, a reward that benefits someone who coworkers think “didn’t earn it”.
The first step for better retention of talent for those people who combine work with caring for a family (especially women, since they are more tied to this role due to persistent gender stereotypes) is to stop seeing motherhood and parenthood as an unnecessary privilege and begin to see it as part of an operating budget.
In terms of protecting the capital and resources of any company or organization, it costs more to lose a person with the skills, training, and experience to do a job. This implies that a hiring process would have to be opened from scratch to fill the position, search for applicants, arrange interviews, hire a new person, train them, and wait for their experience to match the person who left the position for maternity or paternity needs.
This whole process requires more time, work, and money than simply offering facilities that allow employees to fulfill their family responsibilities along with their work ones.