Author: Dyci Manns Sfregola
There is no shortage of discussion and research on the state of gender diversity in the workplace. Recently, we have seen the 1 Million Women in STEM campaign, Gartner released data on the percentage of women in senior roles in supply chain, the Women in Supply Chain award, and much more. While these initiatives and reports reflect progress in recent years, we still have a long way to go.
I recently spoke with a senior leader at a consulting firm that boasted their diversity efforts, but when I looked at the leadership team I saw one woman and eight men. I asked why their senior leadership didn’t include more women since and what initiatives they had in place to increase the number of women in leadership roles. What stood out to me the most was their decision to reduce travel requirements after a realization that requiring 80-100% travel of their employees naturally disqualifies a large portion of the female workforce that would be eligible for leadership roles: moms.
Any true gender diversity efforts should include workplace policies that support moms. Here are a two things your company can control and review now to attract and retain female talent:
Flexible working arrangements— Mothers are being pulled in several directions throughout the day, and disruptions happen. Determining an employee’s value based on their availability, productivity and performance between “normal working hours” negatively affects moms. Nursing mothers are often awake at the wee hours of the morning and exhausted at 10:30am. Moreover, COVID has shown us that working from home and being productive is indeed possible. Commuting and preparing to go to the office is, let’s face it, a waste of time in many cases. Let your moms choose what works best for them when it comes to being in the office vs. WFH. Allowing mothers to determine their working hours and location will help the moms at your company be more productive and also increase the likelihood they stick around for longer, giving you a more diverse talent pool to choose from when it’s time to make promotions.
Give maternity leave - I’m talking real maternity leave, not short-term disability for 6 weeks. And while you’re at it, give paternity leave to fathers so that they can lessen the burden on moms. Moms don’t “do it all” because they are masochists that love feeling burnt out. The lack of paternity leave and our societal norm of having low expectations for fathers leaves mothers carrying a heavy burden and when it comes to career or family, many women choose family. Don’t lose out on exceptional talent because you have outdated parental leave policies. Women are starting to demand more of their employers and companies that don’t change with the times will lose the best talent to companies that are.
“We can’t find women to fill that role” is no longer an acceptable excuse for a lack of gender diversity. There are steps organizations can take to retain and attract female talent and the time has come for workplace policies to change and better support mothers. If your diversity efforts don’t include flex working arrangements and robust paternity leave policies, it’s time to review and update them.