Companies, especially in technology, are pulling out all the stops to recruit and retain women: fertility benefits, shipping breast milk home from work trips, in-office massages and manicures, on-site OB/GYNs, the ability to travel with children and a care-giver and feminine products in the restrooms are just a few of the ways companies are getting creative with trying to appeal to women.
But while these perks might be appreciated, they're not the fundamental drivers of women's decisions to come on board with your company -- or to stick around, says Ursula Mead, co-founder and CEO of InHerSight, an employee ratings and review site for women.
"We have to realize that recruiting female talent is about more than just flashy perks. Yes, these are all great offerings, but companies should start by asking women what they really want from an employer, and then building their benefits and perks from there. As a whole, our data indicates 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," says Kate Ward, head of partner relationships at InHerSight.
A recent study from InHerSight asked 15,000 women to rate what really mattered to them when considering a potential employer, and the results were somewhat surprising, Mead says.
"What women said they wanted most from their employers was not ample maternity leave or mentorship programs or other fancy incentives. They want what most employees want, regardless of sex or gender: paid time off, flexibility, competitive salary. One of our goals here is to help organizations be more successful at recruiting female talent and building more female-friendly workplaces using our data and insights," Mead says.
Doing so starts with asking what women want and need to be successful, and then using that insight to offer those options and appeal to women to come work with you, Mead says. Based on the InHerSight data, here are the top five items, in order of importance, that women want from their workplaces.
[ Related story: How workplace equality perceptions are shaped by gender ]
1. Paid time off (90 percent of respondents)
The most important thing women want from their workplace is paid time off (PTO), according to the survey. "This demonstrates that women want the ability to manage their own work-life balance; if your company isn't providing a reasonable amount of PTO, it may be time to rethink the value that this could bring to your workplace, and how that impacts your ability to recruit and retain women," Ward says.
2. Salary satisfaction (89 percent of respondents)
While the gender pay gap in technology is narrower than in other fields, it's still a major problem. "This is an obvious one -- women want to be paid fairly for the work they do. While there certainly are 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.
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," Ward says.
[ Related story: Battling gender bias in IT ]
3. Outstanding co-workers (89 percent of respondents)
"Our research shows that women seek co-workers who are respectful, professional, unbiased and generally easy to work with. 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," Ward says. 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 percent of respondents)
There's no hidden message here; it's exactly how it sounds -- if men have access to an opportunity, women should as well. Opportunities should be based solely on merit. "You have to provide equal access to promotions, leadership roles, salary increases and incentive programs," Ward says.
[ Related story: The secret to boosting women in IT? Men ]
5. Flexible work hours (81 percent 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, according to the survey. 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, Ward says.
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.