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The Most Powerful Way to Attract and Retain Female Talent

Can the right benefit choices solve the problem that’s driving women out of your workplace?

In the last 50 years employers have reshaped the workplace, overturning decades of draconian policy, to make things more inclusive, but they’re still struggling to retain female talent. It’s because despite all these changes one thing has remained the same — women are disproportionately responsible for the majority of child care and household labor.

This inequity is the biggest reason women walk away from jobs, companies, and often the workforce altogether. It’s how organizations get caught in a never-ending cycle of burning and churning female talent, undermining their diversity initiatives and eventually destroying their female leadership pipeline altogether.

Benefits that help employees manage household and caretaking responsibilities have the power to circumvent this.

In this article, we’re laying out the link between benefits that help at home and professional success. We’re revealing the three biggest domestic dilemmas that cause women to quit and showing you why employee benefits that help at home are the key to attracting and retaining female talent.

Are Employees With Help at Home More Successful?

Remember the age-old idiom, “Behind every great man is a great woman”? Research suggests there may be some truth to this. As it turns out, professional success and domestic support are tightly intertwined, across gender lines.

Consider that 70% of top male earners in the U.S. have a spouse who stays home and compare this to female top earners. When a woman’s income makes the 1% cut, men stay home only 22% of the time. Could this be part of the reason that women in the C-suite leave their jobs over three times the rate of their male colleague?

Interestingly, research found that even married men were far more likely than single men with equal amounts of education to make the 1% cut.

Fortunately, higher-earning, two-income households like these can afford private help such as nannies, personal assistants, housekeepers, and even extended family to manage the overflow of domestic and personal responsibilities.

Female Executives Speak Out About Help at Home

High-powered female executives share how help at home is essential to their success.

Katharine Zaleski, co-founder and president of PowerToFly, wrote in her viral op-ed piece, I’m a Successful Working Mom Because of My Nanny, that I can be celebrated as a working mother simply because I can afford to pay another woman to watch my daughter.”

Indra Nooyi, the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, named one of the most 100 powerful women in the world, revealed how she managed work and home:

“We [Nooyi and her husband] lined up all our family members to come and stay with us for three months at a time on vacation, and their only job was to supervise the day care worker. We did this until the kids could tell us what the nanny did or didn’t do.”

Australian publishing queen, Ita Buttrose, benefited from private help at home while creating her empire. She’s stated on many occasions that “women should demand nannies and housekeepers as part of their salary package to keep their careers on track.”

The challenge of balancing work and home isn’t exclusive to the C-Suite though, it impacts women on every wrung of the corporate ladder. Overall, 81% of women have a partner who works full-time compared to 56% of men. Most of these households can’t afford private domestic help, but it’s precisely this kind of help that keeps women in the workforce.

Why Help-at-Home Benefits Attract and Retain Working Women

Employers struggle to break the cycle of recruiting and losing female talent because they don’t offer benefit solutions to address the three biggest dilemmas driving women out of the workforce.

Dilemma #1 – The Motherhood Penalty

The phrase “motherhood penalty” was initially used by sociologists to describe when working mothers are perceived as less competent and less committed because of the demands and strains on their time created by child care and household responsibilities.

As a result, women are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate after returning from maternity leave. Around 75% of expecting mothers plan to return to work, but an overwhelming 43% resign shortly after returning.

With women comprising almost 50% of the U.S. labor force and a third with children under the age of 18, this comes at a considerable cost to organizations. Replacing an employee who leaves after childbirth can cost anywhere from 20% to 213% of their salary.

  • Consider that women get a 4% pay cut for each child they have, while men receive a 6% bump to their salary.
  • 69% of working Americans say working moms are more likely to be passed up for a new job than other employees.
  • 60% say career opportunities are given to less qualified employees instead of working moms who may be more skilled.
  • 72% of both working moms and dads agree that women are penalized in their careers for starting families, while men are not.*

Help-at-Home Benefits Success Story

Our client, Fifth Third Bank, increased their retention of working mothers by 25% after offering our Maternity Concierge Services. The complimentary program provides support for employees from pregnancy through their babies’ first year and includes assistance with everything from finding child care to baby shower planning.

Dilemma #2 – The Second Shift

The phrase “the second shift” was coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild to describe the unpaid household labor of child care and other caretaking responsibilities that working parents, mainly women, come home to every day.

Hochschild estimated that between paid work and the second shift, women work an extra month of 24-hour days each year compared with their husbands. Could this explain why women leave organizations at a far higher rate than men?

  • Consider that 54% of women assume all or most of the housework in their homes, compared with 22% of men. According to the Women in the Workplace report. In households with children, women are 5.5 times more likely to take on this role.
  • Married or partnered women with minor children are 42% more likely to prepare household meals, 38% more likely to wash dishes and 49% more likely to do the grocery shopping.
  • Even women who bring in a majority of the income are 3.5 times more likely to perform all or most of the household tasks.

According to the fourth annual report in the Modern Family Index (MFI) series, breadwinning women are:

  • Three times more likely than breadwinning fathers to be keepers of their children’s schedules and responsible for getting them to activities and appointments.
  • 34% more likely to manage the family finances.
  • 30% more likely to organize family gatherings and holidays.
  • 38% more likely to take care of home maintenance.

The user data from our employee concierge benefit, which helps with household responsibilities and errand running, supports these findings. Across all our client sites, 74% of our customers are women.

Dilemma #3 – The Sandwich Generation

Dorothy Miller coined the phrase “sandwich generation” to describe men and women (often in their 40s and 50s) who are “sandwiched” between caring for their children and their aging parents. 60% of sandwich generation caregivers are women.

Caregivers spend about three hours a day on unpaid care. That’s 21 hours a week of caregiving on top of a 40-hour job and managing the majority of child care and household responsibilities.

While male and female caregivers spend about the same amount of time caring for their aging parents, mothers spend 45 minutes more on child care than their male counterparts, according to the Pew Research Center and National Caregiving Alliance (NCA). Understandably then, mothers in the sandwich generation feel more stress than any other age group according to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey.

Utilization data from our employee concierge benefit revealed that 50% of our customers across all our client sites are in the 36-55 age bracket.

It appears that at every stage of a woman’s life and at every level of her career, she’s waging an uphill battle with sparse resources, from the maternal penalty to the second shift and then the dilemma of caring for children and aging parents simultaneously.

Why then, are we so hesitant to offer employees, not just female talent, a lifeline?

Biggest Misconception About Help-at-Home Benefits

Organizations usually see help-at-home benefits as gender-specific, much like maternity leave. A “woman’s perk” if you will. The fact is, benefits like this are for every employee at every level of every organization.

Positioning help-at-home as a benefit for all ensures the employees who need assistance receive it, indiscriminately.

That being said, most organizations discover that help-at-home benefits disproportionally benefit female employees, only because women are disproportionately responsible for domestic labor and child care.

The workplace delivers a one-two punch to women’s careers with the motherhood penalty and the second shift. And just as women begin to experience the freedom that comes with their children growing older, the added weight of caring for older parents begins.

Benefits that help employees manage household and caretaking responsibilities can circumvent this.

Employers ignoring this fact, are undermining their own recruiting and retention efforts. And the results are always the same –  sky-high retention rates, dry leadership pipelines and failed diversity initiatives.