As a professional in the talent space today, you’ve no doubt run across some facts and figures from the likes of McKinsey, Gallup, Deloitte…the list goes on…showing that companies with more female employees, particularly in management roles, yield stronger organizational and financial performance.
As a result, the focus on recruiting female employees continues to grow, and companies are pulling out all the stops. Fertility benefits, shipping breast milk home from work trips, in-office massages and manicures, on-site OB/GYNs, and feminine products in the restrooms are just a few of the ways companies are getting creative with trying to appeal to women.
While these things may be appreciated by female employees, they’re not what’s driving their decision to come on board with your company—or to stick around. We must realize that recruiting female talent is about more than just flashy perks.
At InHerSight, a new platform in the online recruiting space, we’re striving to propel this perspective. Through our site, we enable women to rate their current employers on 15 fixed metrics such as management opportunities, maternity leave, and salary satisfaction, and we use this data to match women with new job opportunities based on what they’re looking for in an employer. And from the company’s point-of-view, we help organizations be more successful at recruiting female talent and building more female-friendly workplaces using our data and insights.
Recently, we analyzed responses from 15,000 women looking for great workplaces on our site, across a broad range of ages, industries, and geographies. Women were able to select multiple options from our metrics. The results may surprise you—what women said they wanted most from their employers was not ample maternity leave or mentorship programs or other fancy incentives.
So, before you update your career website, write your next job description, craft your latest job offer, or even decide how you’re going to allocate funds to certain benefits and perks, read on to learn what women really value most from their employers and then use this information to appeal to them to come work at your company. Here are the top five items, in order of importance:
1. Paid time off (90% of respondents)
Our top answer, paid time off, demonstrates that women want the ability to manage their own work-life balance. This comment from an employee at non-profit DonorsChoose highlights the positive impact of being able to take time off when you need it: “As a junior leader…I feel extremely supported and empowered to take risks, take time for myself, and prioritize my workload to meet business needs without burning myself out. We work extremely hard, but we also get lots of vacation time and flex(ible) work opportunities.” If your company isn’t providing a reasonable amount of paid time off, it may be time to rethink the value that this could bring your workforce.
2. Salary satisfaction (89% of respondents)
This is an obvious one—women want to be paid fairly for the work they do. While there is certainly more strides to be made regarding equal pay in this country and elsewhere, women at the very least want to be compensated competitively for the amount of effort they put in, the experience they bring, and the scope of their responsibilities.
Our research revealed that computer technology company Dell appears to be getting this right as one employee commented: “…it seems that salaries are based on hard work, perform(ance), and seniority, not gender.” And an employee from tech giant Amazon commented, “(There are) long hours and high expectations but (it’s) manageable with the right boss, and salary is commensurate with effort, in my opinion, which makes it worthwhile.” Beyond making sure your salaries are competitive in the market in general, companies should conduct an annual salary review to ensure that men and women who have the same level of responsibility and experience are paid in parallel. And wherever discrepancies are found, you should work with your CFO or Financial Planner to make the necessary adjustments.
3. Outstanding co-workers (89% of respondents)
Our research shows that women seek co-workers who are respectful, professional, unbiased, and generally easy to work with. This comment from an employee at enterprise software company Asana highlights the positive benefits that women feel when they get to work with great people: “I feel encouraged to speak my mind, supported to soundboard my thoughts, and in very good company.” Clearly, interactions with colleagues and the social environments cultivated by companies have a huge impact on how women feel about their employers, with women citing specifically that strong male-dominated “old boys” and “bro” cultures were off-putting, and that instead, they sought a culture that took gender out of the equation. By implementing a structured interview process in your company, you can be sure to hire for the qualities, personalities, and culture fit that fuel an environment that women are attracted to—and thrive in.
4. Equal opportunities for men and women (85% of respondents)
There’s no hidden message here; it’s exactly how it sounds—if men have access to an opportunity, a women should as well. Opportunities should be based solely on merit. So, follow suit and provide equal access to promotions, leadership roles, salary increases, and incentive programs. One employee at mobile games platform Chartboost describes it well: “(This is) the first time in my career that I’ve felt my gender truly had no bearing on how I’m treated as an employee. I see men and women equally represented in management positions and being given equal opportunities to move up within the company.”
5. Flexible work hours (81% of respondents)
Women strongly seek employers who are flexible with working hours, allowing them to set their own schedules and successfully attend to both the demands of life and work. An employee at best practice insights company CEB stated: “As an employee who has both a senior job and a lot of outside commitments, my manager and I work together to create the right schedule for me—and communicate (it) to others within CEB—in order to fulfill my personal AND professional ambitions.” Employers seeking more female talent should thus become amenable to the idea that it’s about your employees’ ability to do their jobs and do them well—and not as much about when and where they do it.
What women want
As a whole, our data indicate that women are not looking for employers to answer their specific needs, whether for family-raising, socializing, or creating work-life balance. Nor do companies need to offer a bunch of fancy perks and incentives. Rather, women seek employers that treat them fairly and provide them with the choice, the flexibility, and the financial means to fashion their own lives as they see fit.
A version of this post was first published on Greenhouse.io.