November 6, 2014

Calling All Employers: Support Your Women in the Workforce or Suffer

RunThe year is 2014. Would it surprise you to hear that women are being passed over for key roles because they are … fertile?

Women face many annoyances in the workforce, ranging from sexism to gender discrimination. This talented and well-educated workforce is potentially not reaching its professional goals because of the very nature of its sex. Women have children, and women take maternity leave.

The parental unit is shifting toward a bilateral effort from both parents, but not fast enough. The majority of the burden is still on the mother. More than 40 percent of women have taken time off from their careers to care for their children, as opposed to just 15 percent of men. Where is the happy medium between hiring women and retaining them if they happen to have children?

Gender Discrimination

The struggle starts even before women have the ‘good news’ announcement. Managers prematurely shy away from hiring women who have the capacity to bear children in the near future: 40 percent of managers avoid hiring younger women to get around maternity leave.

Pregnancy discrimination is illegal and downright bogus, but the truth of the matter is it’s happening. Women are cognitively passed on because of their age and their capacity to bear children. These managers are missing out on a capable and flexible workforce. Is money being saved in the end? Studies show it’s not.

Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have seen their returns on invested capital increase by at least 66 percent, returns on sales increase by 42 percent, and returns on equity increase by at least 53 percent.

Gallup has found that companies with more diverse teams (including more women) have a 22 percent lower turnover rate. Organizations with more inclusive cultures also have an easier time with recruiting. Women are financially impacting the bottom line in the best way possible. Adjusting to the unique needs of this workforce can be beneficial to all in the end.

Maternity Leave

Americans are far from number one in maternity leave benefits.  According to an International Health Organization report of 41 developed countries, 17 provide paid time off for between 90 and 100 percent of their populations, including many Western European countries like Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K., but also Estonia and the Czech Republic. Paid maternity leave can be government mandated in other countries, but in the U.S.A. it is up to each employer to decide. In the United States, only 12 percent of private industry workers had access to some kind of paid family leave.

American policies are behind the world. The U.K. offers 90 percent of one’s average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks and a base rate for the next 33 weeks of maternity leave. Should the United States have to change? Paid maternity leave can give a woman more incentive to come back to work and pick up right where she left off at the same company.

Twenty-seven percent of women said they make less money than they would have if they had not had children. Only 11 percent of men said they feel the same way. With women out of the workforce for weeks due to the gift of life, a seamless transition back into the grind of years prior can be difficult.


Paid maternity leave is not the only way to keep these trained workers. Benefit plans of the progressive company today can include any thing from gym memberships to free lunches to unlimited vacation. One trend slowly catching on is childcare.

Only 12 percent of companies currently offer childcare services. Infrastructure high? Cost of running the service high? Maybe. But studies show that, in the end, on-site childcare has a positive return on investment.

A cost-benefit study conducted by Cynthia Ransom and Sandra Burud at the Union Bank in Pasadena, Calif., showed the institution’s on-site daycare program saved $138,000 to $232,000 in annual operations costs, due to reductions in both turnover and absenteeism.

If more employers offered on-site childcare services, then all parents could leave work less often and have lower stress, higher financial freedom, improved productivity and greater peace of mind. All of this creates a happier workforce.

According to a recent Department of Labor report, 32 percent of women have a bachelor’s degree at age 27, compared with only 24 percent of men. Women are a talented workforce. They have quality degrees, and they also have children. The minute that latter quality stops being looked at as a financial burden and career killer is the day the economy benefits.  If your company does not already offer childcare and paid maternity-leave benefits, now is the time to learn how you can support your female workforce.


Read more in Workforce

Kerry is a Web Developer at Red Branch Media, a full-service B2B marketing agency specializing in Human Resources and Global Workforce Vendors. She focuses on user experience and lead generation on web automation platforms such as Wordpress, SharpSpring and Hubspot using HTML and CSS. Kerry is a recurring contributor to and enjoys writing about employee benefits, millennials and company culture.
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