7 ways companies can win back women
When a large portion of your staff is struggling, it’s time to act. And that is exactly where we are today, with female unemployment rising at breakneck speed. What can businesses do to help?
In my work, I have seen organizations and service providers rise to this challenge by adopting a more holistic approach to supporting women. Empowering women financially to overcome the unique challenges they face can help organizations protect both their talent and their bottom line, not to mention their reputation and productivity.
women at work
Women want employers to help them with their financial challenges: Our research shows that 81% of female employees think employers should do more to help them overcome specific financial challenges, and 93% of employers agree.
This need for support has become more urgent: as women represented almost half of the American labor force in 2019, today, mmore women left the labor market than at any other time in the past 33 years, primarily to care for loved ones.
Quitting work can unfortunately exacerbate the financial challenges women already face and profoundly affect their workplace:
- Opportunity gaps. In 2020, women accounted for only 38% of middle managers, 22% of management positions and 5% of CEO positions. Today’s “women’s divestment” is costing both women and their businesses in terms of lost growth potential, leadership development, and future revenue.
- Earnings are missing. Women are still not compensated equally, earning an average of $0.82 to the dollar compared to men in 2021, or $0.98 to the dollar comparing the same jobs and qualifications. Even that 2% wage difference is made up over a lifetime of significant lost income, retirement savings, and investment opportunities. And pay gaps can also contribute to a woman’s decision to keep or return to a job.
- Family matters. Because women often step in to care for loved ones, life events like custody, divorce, or the loss of a partner can have an outsized impact on their financial and career trajectories. The evidence even suggests that having a child – or simply the potential to have children – can also contribute to the pay gap.
- Live longer with less. Women live on average 5 more years than men, which means they should save more for their retirement. However, many save less. Only 39% of women are convinced that they will have enough resources to last until retirement, and the poverty rate for women over 65 is almost double that of their male peers.
The good news is that the workplace can make a real difference by meeting women where they are today. How? ‘Or’ What? According to a InHerSight Surveymost women want their employers to prioritize paid time off, respectful work environments, flexible work hours, and pay satisfaction and equality.
As you evaluate ways to better support, recruit and retain your employees, your benefits offerings and plan participation can play a critical role. Here are some action items to consider:
- Follow the data. We found that only 45% of companies track financial wellness by gender, but missing this data can lead to blind spots in your benefits. Make an effort to reach out to women through targeted surveys and in your organization’s employee resources or other affinity groups to gauge their engagement and perceptions of benefits.
- Start the conversation. Women seem to have a hard time talk about finances: 56% think it’s too personal and 47% are reluctant to talk about it even with a finance professional. Workplace 401(k) plan advisors are a huge resource for helping your employees demystify complex financial topics by guiding conversations and educational seminars, but many women (and plan members in general) may not not being aware of or not using their workplace counsellor.
- Eliminate barriers to entry. The women are less likely to say they understand the financial benefits of workplace wellness and more likely to say they want clearer explanations of their benefits, easy access and simplified registration. Focus communications on women’s concerns, answer their questions and help them use their benefits.
- Grow the support team. The employees are less likely to have a financial advisor or to feel comfortable receiving financial advice at work. Help build their confidence by educating them on the importance of a holistic financial strategy and no-commitment access to financial coaching or advice through workplace benefits.
- Offer flexibility. Since care needs are a priority for many employees right now, be sure to highlight any flexible work policies, extended parental leave, child care and care subsidies. for the elderly, or the backup childcare options offered by your organization – and encourage employees to ask for help when they need it. .
- Debt help. Although women are only more than half of American students, they carry two-thirds of the $1.6 trillion owed in student debt. That’s why new financial wellness benefits that help with student loan debt can be especially helpful for women struggling to get over any outstanding loan balances.
- Make equity more equal. Stock-based compensation supports greater employee retentionincluding for women. It can also help build wealth, but our research shows that women make up only 40% of the total equity compensation pool at American companies. Review your hiring, promotion, and compensation practices to assess and close any gender gaps, and ensure eligible women know how to engage with their rewards.
With so many women making difficult career and life decisions, an inclusive, accessible, and large-scale benefits program is more important than ever. It’s a powerful tool to help improve women’s financial well-being and benefit your business’ long-term bottom line.
Kate Winget is Head of Client and Participant Engagement, Morgan Stanley at Work.
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