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This is exactly what women want at work (and it’s super simple)

12th Jul 2019 | 01:00pm

In 2017, GE announced that it had set a gender diversity goal: hire 20,000 women in STEM roles by the year 2020. Microsoft, after two years of declining female representation in its workforce between 2014 and 2016, decided to tie its executives’ bonuses to diversity goals. Intel designed a diversity and inclusion program that would model its workforce after the percentage share of women and minorities in the labor market. Companies like Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Spotify, and Medium also set gender diversity targets, and it’s estimated that at least 85% of companies track at least some gender diversity statistics.

But according to the Women in the Workplace report, published by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, between 2015 and 2018, American businesses made virtually no progress in female representation in the workplace, and women of color remain particularly underrepresented. The organizations’ proposed solution to the problem of representation was not necessarily novel: hire and promote more women.

If those are the goals of all those diversity targets, why are companies finding it so hard to hire and retain women?

The list of reasons is long, varied, and nuanced. Some women leave their jobs and even careers because of sexual harassment. About 46% who experience sexual harassment at work will leave a job or career, according to a Marketplace-Edison research poll. Others will leave because they continue to be passed over for promotions and raises. Some leave because they have children or want to have children, and the American workplace is so unfriendly to the working mother.

There are more than 165 million women in the United States according to the most recent Census numbers. Women slightly outnumber men, and about 75% of those women do paid work. When it comes to ways we can improve the workplace for women, what attracts them, what makes them want to stay, I say we just ask.

So we did. InHerSight sampled our data set of reviews on more than 100,000 U.S. companies to better understand what women want from their employers and what makes them happy in their work.

The top four things working women said they want from their employers are:

1. Paid time off: sick days, personal days, vacation days
2. Salary satisfaction: bonuses, merit increases, cost of living adjustments, overall compensation
3. Great coworkers: respectful, professional, and unbiased coworkers
4. Flexible work hours: the ability to set your schedule as long as you get your work done

We think of these as the “bread-and-butter” benefits. Paid time off and flexible work hours afford women the ability to design and satisfy the lifestyle they want, while good pay and great coworkers provide security and stability in professional life.

And what about retention? Hiring female talent is one thing, but creating a workplace conducive to their success is another.

To understand what makes women stay in their jobs, we looked for the top predictors of women’s overall job satisfaction.

1. Great coworkers
2. Employer responsiveness: how companies respond when issues like sexual harassment and discrimination are identified
3. Equal opportunities for women and men: promotions, leadership roles, salary increases, and incentive programs, etc.
4. Salary satisfaction

The factors that affect women’s job satisfaction reflect professional, physical, and financial security. When working women have coworkers and an employer who has their backs plus the opportunity to grow and climb, both hierarchically and financially, their overall job satisfaction gets high marks.

Employing and retaining women is good for business. Accenture found that innovation is six times higher at companies with equal workplace cultures, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) argues that greater gender equality in financial systems would “foster greater stability in the banking system and enhance economic growth.”

Hiring women and men in equal numbers widens employer talent pools and better reflects customer bases (women still hold the majority of buying power in the U.S.). Companies with female representation on boards have higher productivity, says MSCI. And according to McKinsey, gender-diverse executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability.

Employers shouldn’t need stats like these to convince them to better support half of the American labor force—the half that holds most of the high-level degrees—but it seems they do. But if it’s data they need, I say we provide them with the data that shows them how to improve.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza writes about data and women’s rights at InHerSight.