Bringing more and more women into workforce has been the focus of most organizations in last few years. However, retaining them has become equally if not more important.
While women are entering organizations in far bigger numbers now however they are also leaving at a higher rate especially nearing middle to senior level.
As most organizations are driving diverse workforce, there is even a more acute issue that there aren't just enough women to move to critical roles or senior levels, leading to a fresh cycle of gaps when changes are not being driven by them.
Is there a need to look at women retention in a different way? Perhaps yes because women while broadly may leave for the same reasons as men, but the intensity &nuances do vary, along with let's just say an added set of reasons.
While most would like to believe that women are not as ambitious as men, in my experience women instead tend to weigh the career move across combination of factors, hence reasons like career growth may not apply as strongly if they are at particular life stage. Let's say for a young mother, a supportive environment or flexible hours will hold key to retention, whereas a male employee may take a bigger leap.
Career breaks for family are also more common to women. While we are seeing a trend where men are willing to be equal participants, women continue to be bear heavier load of taking care of the family - children or even the elderly.
You can get support for child care but would do it directly for ailing elders, as one woman colleague explained when sharing her reasons for exiting.
Specific roles do see higher women exits. When it comes to high travel roles or roles involving remote places, this again plays against women. I have seen some really talented women moving out of business development & sales roles as they just couldn't keep up with the travel that men could.
I recall my own case when my kid was younger and had to travel, I would only do morning-evening flights even if it meant waking up straight for 20 hrs. I am sure most women find their ways to deal with these situations but do need solid support system at work and home.
Office environment is another stronger factor for women compared to men. An aggressive culture may sometimes be extremely uncomfortable for women. A male dominated team may have a comfort to interact in way which may put off or completely be disconcerting to women.
While trying to be diverse the organisations and specifically teams forget to be inclusive.
In past I am reminded of one case of a women team member saying, why are all team parties late in the evening? I miss out on so much information being shared at that point.
Women are consciously or more often unconsciously left out of social bonding because they end up skipping 'buddying post office hours', socially this may just not happen in a natural fashion. Men end up having better team bonding leading to better stickiness with organisations in such cases.
It's for the leaders to reach out to women team members to ensure they have found a voice and are integral part of teams and unconscious discrimination is avoided.
The teams are skewed at top levels and hence the issues. Even in the recent report from World Economic Forum, percentage of Firms with Female top Manager is merely 14% (The Global Gender Gap report 2020, Gender disparity in the workplace - World Economic Forum). Closer home out of every 100 CEOs and managing directors of companies listed on the National Stock Exchange, only about three are women, and this has been the case since 2014 in a study published by Economic Times in 2019.