Women are Stressed and Angry
Strategies for Change
Women report high levels of stress and burnout as they juggle work, family, and household responsibilities. Even though we supposedly live in a more egalitarian society, the home, cooking, and childcare responsibilities still fall primarily on women.
Women make up 56.8% of the workforce in the United States as of September this year. Over 2.2 million more degreed women are now in the labor force than before the pandemic. There are now more women in management positions than men for the first time in American history, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
And these are not exclusively American trends – they are also trends in Europe and many Asian countries.
More women are attending and graduating from universities, as well. Men make up only 40% of the students in American universities, while women are closing in on two-thirds of the university population and receive the majority of college degrees. No one is exactly sure why this is happening, but we know that boys are diagnosed more often with learning disabilities and are more likely to be expelled or incarcerated. Or it may be that men are disengaged and uncomfortable with traditional teaching methods. They often feel able to go off on their own, start a business, or just hang out with friends.
So what does all of this mean for your organization and recruiting?
Women not only provide the skills organizations need but also bring a different mindset and approach to work. Their skills and creativity are highly sought after, yet they are often underpaid, stressed, suffering from burnout, and angry.
As recruiters, we need to work to change this and help provide them with a work environment and benefits that are geared to their needs.
Most of our recruiting efforts are weighted in favor of men. Our marketing messages, our perks, and our benefits are male-oriented. We assume that our 8-hour day and 40-hour work week are normal and desired. We assume everyone wants bonuses and blocks of vacation time. And we assume they are willing to play the political games frequently needed to get ahead. These include those beers after work with the boss, talking about sports, playing golf, and participating in events after work. Few firms offer paid childcare or truly flexible working schedules. Expectations about work are still traditional and male-oriented.
As recruiters, here are a few things to consider:
1. It’s just a good business strategy to develop better strategies to attract women.
With women becoming the majority of the workforce, it is common sense to find better ways to attract and engage them. Pepperdine University found that the Fortune 500 companies with the best record of promoting women outperformed their competitors by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent.
Studies show that companies with the highest representation of women in their senior leadership had better financial performance than those with the lowest number of women. Yet, women are represented on only 20% of the boards of Fortune 500 firms in the U.S., although this is rising quickly. Women of color represent only 6%. France and other European countries have mandated that boards be 40% female.
2. Are you finding the women you already have?
Many recruiters and hiring managers are not actively finding, training, and promoting women already working in their organizations. Internal hiring and development of women are cornerstones of improving your brand image. Each recruiter should focus on making sure that a diverse slate of candidates that includes current female employees, whenever possible, is presented to hiring managers.
By making it a policy to help women move up and across the organization, you can enhance your brand image and, consequently, your ability to attract more women.
3. You need to make sure your brand is friendly to women.
Very few organizations take the time to examine their brand messaging to see how it appeals or doesn’t appeal to men and women. Women often feel undervalued, unappreciated, and underserved by recruiters and organizations. There is a subtle expectation that they should react to things and have the same approaches as men do to situations and events.
Considering the overt and covert messages that come through when someone thinks about your brand is important. Messages that may appeal more to women than men include flexible work time or portray a friendly and collaborative workplace. Socially responsible organizations are also important to many women. Imaging needs to show women in various roles and testimonials, and interviews with women showcase what you are doing. Women need to see and hear that their work will be rewarded and appreciated and that the expectations are not less for them than for men.
4. We need to relook at all our HR policies and practices
Numerous surveys show that women are looking for very different benefits than men. Some specific things they are looking for include job sharing, truly flexible business hours, and paid and unpaid work interruptions for childcare and elder care. The emerging hybrid work schedule of two or three days per week in the office seems fair. However, children’s school and activity schedules are often not in sync with these schedules. Women are usually the ones who have to struggle to find ways to cope. This raises stress and has led many women to resign from the workforce. Letting women choose which days they can be in the office is better than mandating them.
5. A say in decision making
Women are also looking for non-hierarchical organizations with a reputation for collaborative decision-making. If your organization, like so many, has a lot of men at the top, this may be a problem. But often, there are women managers and women-led teams that offer that collaborative environment. Every recruiter should understand how women contribute to their organization and what roles may be most attractive.
6. Pay inequality
Women are still paid less than men. Pay has been an ongoing issue for decades, with study after study underlining the differences in pay for similar work between men and women. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned.
Ignoring women, thinking they are the same as men, and assuming we all want the same things are dangerous practices. Aiming your strategies and tactics at this growing and important dominant workforce makes good sense to me.
What are you doing to change this? Is it enough?
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