Women left the workforce in droves in 2020. Many have not returned.
But what is it that they’d return to? As Deloitte’s new 2023 Global Women @ Work report, which surveyed 5,000 women worldwide, points out, [D]espite some improvements over the past year, many women are still not getting what they want or need from their employers.”
The Search for Flexibility
Dorothy Dalton, founder of 3 Plus International, which guides organizations seeking to build diverse, inclusive, and gender-balanced workplaces, explains:
The Deloitte Women at Work Report 2023 is sending a very clear message to businesses trying to recruit female talent and what they need to get right and focus on. Thirty percent of women in the survey reported that lack of flexibility was the key reason for leaving. This was followed by work/life balance (19%) and the lack of opportunities to learn (13%) and advance their careers (12%). Organizations need to clearly showcase that these are key offerings in all their recruitment material (job postings, career pages, etc.) and other employer branding.
Remote work is often seen as a key to flexibility (although other options exist). Indeed, a year ago, remote jobs posted on LinkedIn received 50% of all applications, even though they only made up less than 20% of jobs. And while men also apply for remote positions, providing remote options does make it easier to acquire female talent.
Working Through the Pain
The report notes that “[o]ver 40% of women who report experiencing health challenges related to menstruation say they work through the pain and discomfort. The picture with menopause is less stark: 1 in 5 women experiencing health challenges related to menopause say they work through any pain or discomfort.”
Meanwhile, 56% of women “believe it is very important for employers to offer paid leave for menstrual symptoms, but only 30% say their employer currently offers this.”
Clare-Louise Knox, CEO of See Her Thrive, reports that these policies and practices play a large role in recruitment. “What is emerging,” Knox says, “is that female job hunters are actually looking at things like whether companies have a menstrual or menopause policy. People are really starting to pay attention to how inclusive and supportive employers are when it comes to menstrual help, menopause, and fertility.”
According to internal data at Carrot, a company that offers fertility benefits for employers to bolster retention and recruiting, 88% of people would change jobs for fertility benefits. Furthermore, Knox fertility standards will become a primary standard among women job seekers and as more companies start offering these benefits.
A Continual Stigma
Deloitte’s report indicates that burnout levels are dropping among women — 46% said they feel burned out in 2022, compared to 28% this year. But while that is a positive development, only 25% of women feel comfortable talking about mental health at work this year, a decline from 43% last year.
This, of course, is an issue recruiters experience themselves. As SHRM reported back in 2019, “Recruiters’ role of serving others at the expense of expressing themselves and the constant interactions with many other people are additional factors that can lead to emotional fatigue and burnout, said J.D. Wildflower, a burnout specialist, high-performance coach and founder of Holistic Success Institute in Minneapolis.”
Since then, with the massive changes that have occurred due to the pandemic layoff of recruiters, a huge push for hiring as pandemic restrictions lifted, and now layoffs in tech that hit HR and recruiting staff at high levels, burnout has undoubtedly increased among TA professionals.
It’s critical not to lose sight of the fact that women still face discrimination in the workplace. “Forty-four percent of respondents reported experiencing harassment and/or microaggressions in the workplace over the past year,” according to the Deloitte report. This is an increase from 23% of women who reported such behavior in 2022.
What’s more, while the research is quite comprehensive, legal recruiter Wendy Schoen points to a significant issue that the report did not address directly. While it talked about women bearing most of the burden for dependent care, the research did not specifically call out care for one’s parents.
“Unfortunately, care for elderly parents falls disproportionately to the women in families,” Schoen explains. “Too many women need to either relocate to care for their parents or need to reduce their overall hours or take a less intense job so that they can focus on caring for their parents. Rarely do I come across a male lawyer who asks me to find them a new job so that they can deal with a wife or parents.”