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May 14, 2012

To recruit and retain women. A measly 1 percent. That’s it.

When 1,226 employers were asked in a recent survey what their primary reasons were for developing workplace flexibility, caregiving leaves and dependent care initiatives, recruiting and retaining women was last on the list. Dead last.

Granted, retaining employees in general came in at 37 percent, followed by helping employees manage work and family life better at 16 percent, and third was improving morale at 12 percent (neck and neck with “mandated by law” at 12 percent, of course).

Behind that 1% figure

This being all part of the 2012 National Study of Employers, designed and conducted by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and released jointly by FWI and the Society for Human Resource Management. I had the opportunity to attend a press briefing about their latest study at the recent SHRM Talent Management and Staffing Conference in Washington, D.C.

The new FWI/SHRM study, which was first conducted in 1998, shows significant changes for U.S. workers since end of recession. According to the FWI and SHRM, the National Study of Employers is the most comprehensive and far-reaching study of practices, policies, programs and benefits provided by U.S. employers to address changing flexibility needs of today’s workforce.

The study targeted employers with 50 or more employees, 75 percent that are for-profit and 25 percent that are non-profit. They had a huge response rate of 44 percent. The good news is that “flexibility” remains on a steady track to the new normal since 2009, including changing start and quitting times for work, but opportunities to take extended leaves from work have declined.

You can read other highlights from the study from the press release or directly from the study itself available here.

But I want to get back to the 1 percent figure from above, because I have two little girls who are almost 2 and 4 who just may grow up to be captains of industry someday.

There needs to be a cultural shift

Recently I wrote about women working in technology and how low the numbers were, even today. According to a recent study by the Anita Borg Institute, an organization dedicated to increasing the role of women in technology, there needs to be a culture shift inside companies today. They need to recruit from bigger candidate pools and advertise positions more neutrally, removing stereotypes and culture references that tell “diverse” candidates to stay away. When hiring, make sure that at least one woman is in the running for every tech job and part of the recruiting and hiring management teams, as well as part of the team who’s developing workplace flexibility.

Also, let’s not forget that women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools (for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same). More and more women are entering (and re-entering) the workforce in record numbers since post World War II, and retaining more jobs than men in this never-ending economic ice age we’re in (and yes, I don’t care how hot markets like Silicon Valley are).

And when you see enlightening events like the 2012 Technovation Challenge where 11 teams of high school girls unveiled their mobile apps that were totally new-school, stunningly savvy and digitized to the max, it gives me hope that employers will continue to provide and increase flexibility for women (and men) alike when it comes to workplace flexibility, caregiving leaves, and dependent care initiatives.

I read another article recently titled Why The World Needs A More Feminine Version Of Success and this quote really stood out to me:

The female ‘counter’ need is community and collaboration [to the status quo of business today], driven by a desire to protect vulnerable children who are only safe when the entire community is caring for them. A shift to a more balanced design basis that embodies feminine principles would mean moving from dominance to harmony, from exclusivity to inclusively, and from individual success to community success.”

Fathers still getting the short end on child care

Right on. Women will continue to give birth and start families. Gay men and women will increase their adoption of children and/or have surrogate children and start families (straight couples too, I know).

Unfortunately, fathers are still getting the short end of the stick when it comes to child care and paternity care according to this year’s National Study of Employers. Even if they get time, they may not get paid. The world of work still assumes the women will take care of the children and the men will take care of business. Crazy, I know.

I’ll bet you, though, that by the time my daughters enter the workforce, there will be many more female captains of industry, and then it will be interesting to see what the National Study of Employers reveals about workplace flexibility.

You can find more from Kevin Grossman on his Marcom HRsay blog.

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