Why you lose great female talent

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Do you know the real reason why you lose female talent?

By Kate Christie

The business case for attracting and engaging talented women is compelling — again and again the data indicates that companies with a higher representation of women in senior management positions financially outperform companies with fewer senior women.

For example:

  • Catalyst puts this outperformance at 35% higher ROE
  • Ellison and Mullin found that the gender diversity of an office improves office performance significantly, with a revenue gain of 41%
  • McKinsey found that for every 10% increase in gender diversity in companies in the UK, EBIT rose by 3.5%

So, you get it. To attract female talent your company is very likely to have a range of initiatives in place including flexible working arrangements; mentoring; lateral recruitment; sponsorship; female talent programs; quotas and more.

But, do you really get it? Because now that you’ve attracted her, how are you going to keep her?

3 reasons organisations lose their female talent:


  1. They don’t understand who she is

You need a very clear understanding of her profile — not just her capability at work.

If she’s in your talent pool, she’s worked hard to get there. She’s talented, driven, a self-starter and highly motivated. She operates best when she feels in control. She is most likely in her 30s-40s, which also means, according to ABS data, that if she plans to become a parent then this is when she is having her children. Having children adds a level of complexity to her life. Up until now she has been able to focus 100% on growing her stellar career, but now she has competing demands.


2. They don’t understand her challenges
Regardless of whether it is right or wrong or fair or not, she is likely to take on the lion’s share of responsibilities at home.

She’ll manage the work/life juggle brilliantly for a period of time because she has worked hard to get here. However, she has so many balls in the air that the juggle is becoming increasingly hard to sustain.

She will start to question her ability to have it all She feels stressed, overwhelmed and guilty about not being 100% focussed on her job or on her family responsibilities. She worries that she can’t have success both at work and at home. She is losing confidence. She is exhausted. She is considering opting out. In the very least, she is looking to tread water and not seek promotion to the highest levels of your organisation for fear of further disrupting her family life.

But, she won’t actually share any of this with you. She will absolutely not let her guard down because she doesn’t want to be judged as not coping, as not managing, as not being deserving of her status as talent.

The first you will hear about her ‘struggle with the juggle’ is when she hands in her resignation.


 3. They don’t address her challenges
There is more to female talent retention than offering flexibility, talent programs or even pay equity.

You need to demonstrate to your female talent, and to the talent in the market, that you understand the challenges she faces. You need to look beyond traditional policies and programs to provide her with greater control over her time both at work and outside work. You need to provide her with solutions to help her better manage the ‘juggle’.

Unless your organisation understands the profile of your female talent; understands what is really keeping her awake at night; and then puts in place specific programs to help her better manage all aspects of her life, you will lose her.


This post originally featured on the CEO Magazine website

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