Can the right benefit choices alleviate one of the largest factors driving women out of your workplace?
More and more employers are focused on attracting and retaining female talent for good reason. According to research, organizations in the top 25% for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform those in the bottom 25%.
Despite employers’ best efforts to make the workplace more equitable, welcoming, and supportive to women, by reworking decades of draconian culture and policy, they’re still struggling to overcome female retention challenges.
If your organization is interested in overcoming this problem, set your sights on what’s happening outside the workplace, to something that, despite our collective efforts, remains as true today as it was 100 years ago — women are disproportionately responsible for the majority of child care and household labor.
In response, some organizations argue that what happens at their employees’ homes is not their responsibility.
However, this inequity is the biggest reason women walk away from jobs, companies, and often the workforce altogether. It’s how organizations become caught in a never-ending cycle of burning and churning female talent. Eventually, this dries up their female leadership pipeline and undermines their diversity initiatives.
Benefits that help employees manage household and caretaking responsibilities 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.
Compare this to top female earners. When a woman’s income is enough to put the household in the top 1%, men stay home about 22% of the time.
At the same time, 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
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. 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 help that keeps women in the workforce and allows them to be successful.
Why Help-at-Home Benefits Attract and Retain Working Women
Women leave organizations at a far higher rate than men, on average 7% more. This number climbs the higher up the corporate ladder we look. According to the Network for Executive Women, women in the C-suite leave their jobs over three times the rate of their male colleagues.
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.
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.*
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.
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.
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.
The user data from our employee concierge benefit, which helps with household responsibilities and errand running, reflect this reality. Across all our client sites, 74% of our customers are women.
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.
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.
Award-winning author Amy Westervelt summed it up best with her viral quote: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.”
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. And 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, 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.
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.
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 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 interpret help-at-home benefits as gender-specific, much like maternity leave. Upon first hearing the concept of domestic benefits, many organizations slide into the assumption that it’s a women’s perk.
The fact is, benefits that help lighten the burden of household chores and child care responsibilities are for every employee at every level of every organization.
In most families, women do take the lead in the domestic realm, and most organizations find that help-at-home benefits disproportionally benefit women because women are disproportionately responsible for domestic labor and child care.
Positioning help-at-home as a benefit for all organically assists employees who need it, when they need it indiscriminately and without assumption.
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 – given enough time without action, the organization’s female leadership pipeline completely evaporates.