Companies often ask me how to bring more women on board and into leadership positions. When they do, I channel my inner Glenda the Good Witch and remind them that, like Dorothy, they needn’t look any farther than their own back yards.
Retention, my friends, is what I’m talking about. It’s typical for companies to have a roughly equal ratio of female to male employees at entry level, only to experience a drastic drop-off the higher up the ladder you go. Why is that?
As I see it, for some reason companies often look outside when promoting. My question to them is: why aren’t you utilizing the women you already have on board? They know your brand, believe in the company values, and might be exactly what you’re looking for with a little investment in their leadership development.
I know many women who thought they were next up for a promotion and then the company decided to promote from outside instead. Not only did it cost the company more to get an outsider up to speed, it really angered the woman who thought she had a shot.
Most companies have an ample supply of talented women with leadership potential who want nothing more than to work for bosses who get it. By “get it” I mean bosses who recognize ambition and drive, who help develop employees’ skills, who demonstrate they appreciate the good work women do, and who offer real shots to advance and encourage women to take them.
Whole Foods gets it. In fiscal year 2014, the company had 90,000 team members (employees). Within that vast structure, approximately 90% of store leadership positions were filled with internal candidates and 100% of Store Team Leader positions were filled internally. Whole Foods has a voluntary turnover rate for full-time Team Members of just 11 percent. That’s low for retail, and likely influenced by the good will that comes from all that internal promotion.
The tech world is working on getting it. Silicon Valley companies are changing up their recruiting game, and competing to retain talent by offering some of the most progressive corporate parental leave policies America has seen.
Netflix caused a major stir in August (and watched its share price spike to a record high) when it announced an unlimited leave policy for new parents, allowing them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption. Microsoft and Adobe quickly followed with their own announcements.
Microsoft now offers 12 weeks paid leave to new parents plus 8 weeks of paid disability for birth moms. Adobe, offers new parents 16 weeks off plus 10 more weeks for birth mothers. Twitter offers up to 20 weeks paid maternity and 10 weeks paid paternity. Facebook gives four months paid leave for new parents. And back in 2007, Google extended its paid maternity leave to 18 weeks from 12, after which it saw new mothers depart the company at half the rate they did under the shorter-term policy (according to Google spokeswoman, Roya Soleimani.)
All of this effort to provide paid parental leave is great news since 70% of women in the American workforce are mothers. WE sure hope other business sectors follow Silicon Valley’s lead, because when companies combine desirable benefits with developing female talent and promoting women from within, the cultural message is undoubtedly We want you here. We value you.
It’s no surprise women find that attractive.