Smiling woman sitting at a desk inside an open-concept office with coworkers in the background.
Employers can attract and retain more women by providing better work-life balance, caregiver flexibility, and more. — Getty Images / Harbucks

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and a new normal is developed amidst economic and social challenges, women are still reeling from effects within the labor market. Data shows women are continuing to leave their jobs at record rates and reports are showing more burnout among women than ever before.

To help provide actionable tips to employers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 12th Annual International Women’s Day Forum featured a panel of industry leaders who discussed how employers could better support women’s return to work. Based on their insights, employers can attract and retain more women by providing a better work-life balance, caregiver flexibility and creating a safe company culture.

[Read more: 5 Small Business Owners Reveal Their Best Employee Retention Strategies]

Encourage a better work-life balance

The pandemic and its socioeconomic impact have caused women to reevaluate their current working priorities and define what a proper work-life balance means to them. The Great Resignation has shown employees are leaving their jobs to find a place better suited to their values, often leaving employers reeling and struggling to fill positions.

Spring Lacy, VP and head of learning and development, HR talent and capabilities at Prudential, explained that these women are “voting with their feet” by determining where they want to work as employers fight an “all-out war for talent.”

“I think the pandemic has caused people to reevaluate their own values … and with that, what they're expecting from their employers,” said Lacy.

To help nurture these values, provide your employees with resources that will help them juggle long hours at work and their personal lives. Julie Lukas, divisional vice president of Global Human Resources Services and Technology at Abbott, noted that when the pandemic began, her company worked to find ways to help women manage the responsibilities they knew some women held with children and eldercare.

“Abbott provided us, through our wellness programs, with two hours per child of free tutoring,” she explained of one of the benefits.

[Read more: Work-Life Integration Is the New Work-Life Balance]

Provide caregivers with additional flexibility

Women are desiring flexibility in work schedules, especially those who may be mothers or caregivers and are also having to facilitate virtual learning. Women don’t want to see their personal lives and family situations as something that will keep them from developing their career goals, explained Julie Lukas, divisional vice president of global human resources services and technology at Abbott.

Additionally, employers must consider some women's hesitation about going back into the office after a long time away. Lacy explained Prudential is not yet back in the office due to the challenges women are facing as caregivers. She noted this decision to delay returning to the office was in line with the school systems in certain areas and how it would affect the caregiver’s return to work.

“From an employer perspective, it allows us to be responsive to what people are asking for in the market,” explained Lacy. “And again, primary caregivers are demanding flexibility from their employers — and [providing flexible responses has] given us a chance to do that.”

Create a safe and inclusive workplace culture

Employees, especially women, are searching for employment opportunities that not only align with their values but also promote a company culture that’s safe and inclusive for all. Even if your company has the best policies and business practices to attract top talent, you won’t keep employees in their current positions unless you provide them with a workplace rooted in safety and inclusivity.

“I've been at companies where those policies existed and I might not have been comfortable taking advantage of them because the culture didn't necessarily support what the policies may have dictated,” said Lacy.

Glenn Williams, chief diversity officer and VP of HR at Qualcomm, said it’s also critical to focus on developing your employees’ skills and creating equal opportunities for all. This includes increased transparency about equality of opportunity within the company.

“One of the things that… [we] started three years ago was to make sure that we're being as transparent as possible,” explained Williams. “We also have a pay equity statement that we release and we do an analysis every year … and make sure that there [aren't] any discrepancies.”

[Read more: 6 Things Every Boss Should Do to Build an Amazing Company Culture]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO— is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Published March 09, 2022