I recently read this article in the Financial Times by Dina Medland, and although based on largely anecdotal evidence rather than hard research, it was an interesting piece. It asserted that men more frequently change jobs in order to further their careers.
In the article, she shared several anecdotes from high-achieving women about their opinions on the matter. The overwhelming consensus was that when women are happy in their roles, they are, indeed, more loyal than men.
It got me thinking about loyalty. While my experience does tell me that female employees tend to stay in jobs for longer, this longevity does not come out of nowhere. With more and more women now taking the step of moving jobs in order to further their careers and increase their salaries, what benefits can employers offer to keep their female talent in the business?
As Medland points out, women tend to stay with a company longer if they genuinely enjoy their jobs. Female employees often already have to manage a delicate work-life balance. It stands to reason, then, that if they are happy where they are, they are less likely to risk a big upheaval in their lives. This has to extend to relationships within the office, as some women tend to view work as social, as well as professional. If the cultural fit isn’t right, it’s more likely that they will begin to look elsewhere.
Another compelling reason for staying is help with managing the aforementioned work-life balance. Benefits such as flexible working hours, childcare support or schemes to stay in touch while on maternity leave are all powerful retention techniques. For example, Medland’s FT article notes the case of a woman who was made tax partner at KPMG the day she had her second child – a move that created a great attachment to the business.
The wish for an increased salary also has its part to play. While men are more likely to be assertive and ask for a pay rise, or even to have negotiated a better remuneration package when they joined a business, women tend to feel less confident in doing so. This is possibly one of the reasons that the gender pay gap remains wider than it should be in our otherwise enlightened era.
Changing the status quo, however, isn’t as straightforward as asking female professionals to be more confident. There is, in some cases, an ingrained stigma, even a double standard, around assertive women. Where a man is a “go getter” a woman is “pushy” and so attempts at emulating the typically male behaviour that yields positive results end up backfiring. Aside from steps to remove this stigma, two major changes need to be made in order to remedy this situation – and for businesses to prevent their top female talent for leaving in search of better pay.
The first is that companies should be continually assessing whether salaries are gender equal. HR departments should conduct regular reviews into whether male and female employees at the same level as one another are being paid the same. The second is that more opportunities need to be presented for staff to provide information about their contribution to the organisation. This will provide those who are avoiding proactively asking a difficult question about a salary rise with a forum in which to raise the issue.
Women are exceedingly loyal – but they are also becoming more aware of their worth and their options. In order to earn their long-term commitment, organisations need to ensure they are not taking their female talent for granted – and that they’re rewarding their efforts, regardless of whether or not they’re being shouted about.