Last month, American women saw a significant increase in labor force participation, with the proportion of women in the labor force between the ages of 25 and 54 finally reaching a pre-pandemic level of nearly 75%. For employers looking to close stubborn talent gaps while making progress on gender representation goals, this news could be cause for celebration. But researchers say such a celebration is premature unless structures are put in place to ensure women stay in the workforce.
It is clear that employers still have a long way to go to meet the basic needs of their employees. According to a recent Bain & Company report, less than 30% of women say they feel included at work. This poses a major retention risk, given that lack of belonging is one of the top reasons employees say they would leave a company.
Women are also still largely excluded from some of today’s most in-demand and lucrative jobs. They currently hold only 25% of all IT jobs in the United States and 13% of engineering jobs. But representation is only one aspect. There is also retention.
For Bianca Bax, Expert Partner at Bain, inclusion is at the heart of female retention. “You can recruit as diverse as you want, and you’ll find people, but the big question is, are you going to keep them?” she says. “Inclusion is important for people to stay longer, be more productive and be more of a promoter of your business, which we know has a direct link to business growth.”
Bax spoke with Fortune on the inclusive structures that leaders can put in place to help ensure progress on gender equity.
Promoting true flexibility
Some have theorized that the current rise in women’s participation in the labor market can be linked to the return of children to school, thus freeing women to return to work.
While Bain’s research reveals that women and men in the United States place equal priority on flexibility early in their careers, it increases in importance for women and decreases for men as they age. Recognizing this imbalance and implementing policies such as parental leave, part-time work options, and remote work arrangements can help create a truly flexible culture.
Inculcate a “passport” career culture
Bax and his team define a “passport-centric” culture as one that encourages employees to think about their careers in terms of “exploring different roles, flexible working, and on and off ramps,” rather than to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. She says modeling this practice from the top down is the most effective way to instill such a culture.
Creating sponsorship opportunities at all levels of an organization is also key to advancing women’s career paths and boosting retention. Bax notes that leaders should invest in targeted sponsorship rather than mentoring programs, the gold standard among HR partners. Sponsorship encourages more active advocacy and promotion of employees, which is another form of intentional inclusion.
“Putting structures in place that help you include explicitly will prevent you from accidentally excluding,” she says.
The most compelling data, quotes and insights from the field.
Earlier this week, I (virtually) sat down with Eimear Marrinan, Senior Director of Culture at HubSpot, to discuss what’s on her mind the most. The answer, like so many others in the field, is connection. Here’s how she explains the challenge and how HubSpot is working to solve it:
“One of the biggest things that comes to mind is connectivity in our hybrid world…We’ve seen throughout COVID and after that employees are having a really hard time getting online, both within their teams and with the company. We have a ton of new hires, but there’s also a lot of communication and stuff going on, and sometimes we don’t make it easy for people. [connect]. We’re trying to figure out how to make connection central to our culture through community, common interests, and common cause. Much of our cultural programming will focus on this for the rest of the year and certainly next year.
Around the table
– Making friends at work helps employees feel more connected to each other, which boosts productivity and engagement. The best managers don’t leave this to chance and instead actively try to build these bonds between teams. HBR
– Citigroup has launched a new graduate hiring program in Malaga, Spain, which promises eight-hour workdays and free weekends. The bank says it is rethinking the way it recruits young talent. Critics say it’s just a gimmick. But the 3,000 applications received by Citigroup could say otherwise. FinancialTimes
– An employee who led Starbucks’ first organizing effort in Buffalo, NY, says she was quitting the company because she failed to meet her scheduling demands. The coffee giant says the store was too understaffed to cut hours. PA
– New York has 176,000 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, the slowest recovery of any major US city. The sedated recovery can be attributed to declining levels of international tourism and commuters coming to the city after the pandemic. New York Times
– Hard Rock announced that it is allocating $100 million to provide raises to employees in a bid to combat rising inflation. CNBC
The latest movements of HR executives.
The Placement Agency Appointed by Kelly Keilon Ratliff as its first diversity director. Hired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Chinny Okolidoh as Director of Diversity and Inclusion. nokia named Amy Hanlon Rodemich as CPO. ANI Pharmaceuticals announced Krista Davis as the new Director of Human Resources.
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Everything you need to know about Fortune.
10 scary minutes. Patreon is reduction of approximately 17% of its workforce and closure of two offices in Europe. In a bizarre move, the CEO informed staff of the news in an email, saying affected employees would be notified within the next 10 minutes. It made for a tough few minutes at the office. —Priya Anand
Redundancy plan. Snap recently laid off 20% of its staff, or about 6,400 employees. FortunePaige McGlauflin explains how CEO Evan Spiegel communicated difficult news with empathy and transparency– and offers learnings for leaders on how to do the same. —Paige McGlauflin
European companies are going in circles. European banks seek to attract American employees with the promise of remote work. Most US banks have told employees to return to the office five days a week. Meanwhile, all major European banks are allowing employees to work a hybrid schedule. The pressure is there. —Nicholas Comfort