How to retain women employees—stopping the “leak in the pipeline”

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Women are recruited, and after a period of time they leave. Should women be treated as a special case and given extra support?

I’ve just read Kate Buckholz’s article in Wired Magazine If you can’t retain women, don’t recruit them, which is very thought-provoking, and on a personal note, I agree with her.

I agree with her view that there is a “leaky pipe” – women are recruited, and after a period of time they leave. There are many reasons—life events such as families, lifestyle and company culture to name a few. These reasons are typically different from the reasons why men leave.

For me, this poses a very important question—should women be treated as a special case and given extra support? There are many pros and cons to this. On the upside, it improves retention of female employees, it improves the morale of women, and it sends a huge and positive message to the more junior female employees. On the downside, however, it can be seen as favoritism, which is very demoralizing to female employees.

My view is that many of the issues that women face in the workplace are felt by many other groups as well—ethnic groups, those with health issues, older employees, and men. I wrote a blog last month about Work Life balance—is it really possible? I received equal amounts of feedback from men and women. It shows that we are all trying to find a balance—and this is not specific to gender. I think that organizations all agree that it makes sense to be more inclusive and retain their female employees. After all, it is expensive to find and hire good people. And having found these great people, companies want to keep them—it is good business sense.

The key question is “how to retain female employees?” There is no one simple answer to this; it’s a combination of many things—flexibility, recognition that different groups of employees have varied needs and wants. This poses a challenge for companies, as the strategies need to be flexible and multi-stranded. It’s not simple, and unless companies can show solid business benefits, then it’s hard to maintain momentum.

In Capgemini, we found that our clients expect us to be diverse, and this has helped us to launch—and maintain—our Diversity initiative. What’s more, our Diversity initiative, launched last year, includes all groups, not just women. Our mission statement is “Be recognized in the market, by our clients and our current and future workforce as a truly inclusive organization where everyone feels valued, included, and empowered.” By focusing on market recognition, the initiative is tied to the core of our business, and more importantly, will be sustained over time.

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