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How employers can retain and attract a talented female workforce


Everytime a company announces that they are spending time, effort and money trying to analyse where their top female talent is going, and why they aren’t making it through the glass ceiling, I sigh with exasperation. Do they ever ask their female leavers why they aren’t coming back after maternity and what would have made them stay? I suspect not, and if they do, it is unlikely they would have done anything to accommodate them.

The ever increasing statistic of Mumpreneurs setting up in business to work around the family reveals it all, as does the change in the law that allows everyone to ask for a flexible working arrangement without any caring pre-requisites. Taking a holistic view of the nation, more people are moving around than ever before, the really great jobs tend to be London-centric and more people than ever before want a ”work life balance”, particularly if they have children or caring responsibilities.

Companies report that they are having recruitment problems, and lots of skilled and educated mums and carers scour through the jobs on the internet only to find there is nothing suitable available. The mismatch all falls down to what businesses are prepared to offer and what women are prepared to accept.

This is the controversial part…but not really!

If an employer can’t attract decent candidates then they need to consider reviewing the job demands and maybe, just maybe, consider making the job a Jobshare  or a part-time role, or (heaven forbid) accepting flexible working requests. How lovely would it be to choose from the cream of the crop of candidates? How great would it be to have people so desperate to prove themselves in the role because this job is so highly desired and they won it over hundreds of other candidates. How great would it be to have an excellent employee come back to work after maternity being so grateful that you have given them the opportunity to prove themselves, and show their loyalty and commitment. None of the training, knowledge and consistency will have gone to waste and continuity reigns.

What about the perks for the employees? How good would it be for an employee to be allowed to work from home on some days, enabling them to do the school pick up and drop off? Even better, if an employer provided a crèche in the building how motivated would your employees be to come to work and know they are safe and  can check on them if need be?

There are lots of talented people existing in jobs they would never have chosen. My publisher friend is working in a supermarket, my nuclear physicist friend is working as a teacher, my graphic designer friend is teaching dance and a number of people I know have set up their own businesses, none of which they would have done, had they had a choice on their hours and days they came back to work.

The concerns of employers around “part timers” are understandable. It can be deemed disruptive to continuity,  to have someone there on only certain days of the week, and it can be annoying to colleagues (having to pick up their calls or work) , and for  customers and clients to not have a dedicated person there are their disposal all the time. However, all of this can be worked around, and if the employee is great in the first place, or you hire a job share with clear KPI’s and utilise the probation system and manage everyones’ expectations, it can work and work very well.

Until attitudes change in the workplace and people start to value “part timers” contribution to the workforce  and also hire them, then this  is  exactly the reason why people won’ t make the glass ceiling and why they never will.



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