By Cassie Pike, Managing Director – Consumer, Retail & Business Services

Increased burnout paired with longstanding gender inequities has led women to part with their careers amid the pandemic. Good news: Talent acquisition leaders have the opportunity to help women reenter the workforce and avoid derailing their gains in representation.

Worldwide, the number of employed women dropped by 4.2% in 2020 compared to the year before – with the highest decline in the United States followed by the Middle East & Africa and the Asia Pacific regions. While men have regained their employment losses in the United States over the past two years, over 1 million fewer women are working since the start of the pandemic, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Research shows employers that give women the culture and support to allow them to succeed have a more productive and motivated workforce, leading to higher retention. Here are five ways TA leaders can support women in rebuilding their careers and set them up for a lifetime of success:

Reduce barriers for entry
Men apply for a job when they meet just 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they are 100% qualified. The best practice is to include three or fewer requirements on job postings, less than 10 total qualifications, and remove unnecessary degree requirements. Consider crafting gender-neutral job descriptions by including a balance of feminine- and masculine-themed language.

Globally, women earn on average just 68% of what men are paid for the same work, and just 40% on average in countries with the least gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum. Reduce barriers for entry by listing pay ranges in your job description so applicants know upfront whether the position is in line with their expectations.

Offer workplace flexibility
Employees increasingly want to choose where, how and when they work. Since women historically have taken on more caregiving responsibilities, remote work and flexible schedules may be appealing to them. More examples of workplace flexibility include providing:

  • Part-time schedules
  • Job-sharing options
  • Variable shift lengths
  • Training hours consistent with work hours
  • Non-mandatory overtime
  • Gig or project work options

Consider conducting focus groups to ensure you get a return on your investment to enhance flexibility. They are a great way to gather feedback on what female employees value most, preferred alternative working arrangements, and other areas to offer flexibility.

Deliver real work-life balance
A healthy work-life balance looks different for everyone, but employees must see their leaders demonstrate it. This could be as simple as only sending emails during standard business hours or truly disconnecting from work while on vacation.

To support both mental and physical health, consider offering paid leave from day one and enhancing your company’s employee assistance program to include support around mental wellness. Providing childcare subsidies, on-site childcare, or time off for family care can also help make work-life balance a reality for women.

Provide career growth opportunities
Reskilling programs can give women access to higher-paying jobs, making it worthwhile for them to return to the workforce. Businesses must be transparent about career progression and offer development opportunities to everyone – not just those putting in the most hours or the most “face time”.

Consider creating a formal mentorship program that offers support for women by women, providing encouragement, feedback, and a safe space for reflection and growth. It is important for women to see other women succeeding and talk through challenges they have overcome.

Effectively communicate your inclusive culture
Once TA leaders create a compelling value proposition with inclusivity, flexibility and benefits that appeal to women, develop specific messaging that resonates with them. For example:

  • Quotes from female leaders
  • Videos and imagery that align with the enhanced value proposition
  • Employee testimonials from women who returned to the workforce

Get this information in front of your targeted candidates by meeting them where they are at, which is not traditional job boards. Instead, use contextual and behavioral ad targeting on social media.

Updating your company’s talent acquisition strategy to be more inclusive of women is a win-win for the business and employees. These strategies will appeal to women and any other people looking to reenter the workforce, expanding talent pipelines and helping to address the overall talent shortage facing many companies.

Cassie Pike

Connect with Cassie on LinkedIn.