How To Use Benefits to Increase Female Leadership at Enterprise Companies

February 16, 2023

Did you know that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on exec teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile?

Despite this, according to the Women in the Workplace Report from McKinsey & Company and, women make up only 21% of Senior Vice President roles and 20% of C-Suite roles. This challenge is particularly alarming when it comes to women of colour — who represent just 4% of SVP roles and 3% of C-Suite roles.

So, why, despite the financial and ethical gains available to companies that promote women, are there still so few women represented in leadership positions at enterprise companies?

There’s a broken rung: “For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of colour are promoted. As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, and women can never catch up.”

Enterprise companies simply must recognise these statistics if they want to attract, retain, and promote female employees. 

Here are 6 actionable ways that HR, benefits, and talent professionals can increase female leadership at their enterprise companies. 

1. Invest in Women’s Health Benefits

In recent years, women’s health has become a more commonplace topic in the workplace, but women are still disproportionately affected by health and healthcare issues—often leading them to leave the workforce, seek new or part-time jobs, or be passed over for promotions. In fact, 57% of women who struggle with a hormonal or gynaecological condition believe it has harmed their career, and 20% believe they have been discriminated against because of their condition. Human resources and employee benefits teams at enterprise companies must break the taboo of discussing women’s health in the workplace so that they can better understand what their employees are going through and how they can strategically invest in building a benefits package that attracts, retains, and supports women. 

2. Fund DEIBA

Building a diversity, equity, and inclusion program at your company can be incredibly meaningful to your employees and bottom line. So how do enterprise companies invest in DEI? Here are a few starting points.

  • HR and benefits leaders should review their benefits packages to ensure that they offer benefits that support their diverse populations. 
  • As it stands, a measly 28% of S&P 500 companies include DEIBA in exec compensation plans. Consider adding DEIBA goals to your exec bonus and compensation structures; not only does this further incentivise investment in DEIBA on the part of leadership, but it connects DEIBA to overall company goals. 
  • Build, fund, and support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). 
  • Take a stand (with your voice and your pocketbooks) on issues that affect the workplace—and yes, that includes things like Black Lives Matter, Roe v. Wade, disability rights, etc.

3. Embrace Flexible Work

Flexible work is good for everyone — not just women — but it can be an especially powerful tool for attracting and retaining talented female employees. As it stands, women miss more work than men do, because they are sick or have to care for sick children or elderly parents.

Enterprise companies can consider a number of different flexible working options — from working from home, working from anywhere, asynchronous hours, or hybrid schedules — that can support women. Each of these options has its merits and drawbacks, but when it comes to retaining top performers, offering solutions that allow employees to adjust their schedules for things like doctors’ appointments, travel, childcare, or continuing education can be a great tool.

4. Build A Women’s Leadership Development Program

Another amazing way for enterprise companies to build a pipeline of female leaders at their company is to build a women’s leadership development program. 

Here are some tips that can help enterprise companies build effective women’s leadership development programs:

  • Set SMART Goals: What are you hoping to achieve with the program? In what time frame? Are your goals measurable? Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals will help you tackle the correct issues and determine the success of your efforts. It can also help you iterate on your program to improve over time.
  • Acknowledge Diversity:​ Not all women want the same thing or have the same needs. So ask your employees: do they want mentor programs? Continuing education stipends? Networking events? In-office trainings? Think about what they say and offer different options. The most successful women’s development programs create space for flexibility and individual goal-setting.
  • Get Exec Buy-In: Find a corporate or exec sponsor for the program who can act as both a leader and the spokesperson for the group.

With these programs, companies can build talent pipelines, promote from within, retain more talent, and build a strong employer brand and culture. 

5. Consider Your Recruiting Practices

If you’re having trouble even getting senior female candidates in the door, it might be time to reconsider your recruiting process. For instance, when writing job descriptions, consider which skills or experiences are truly required for a job; statistics have shown that women are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t meet 100% of the qualifications requested. Also ensure that you avoid gender-coded language like “aggressive,” “headstrong,” or “assertive.” 

And in today’s competitive talent market, posting your role on LinkedIn alone is no longer enough when it comes to hiring diverse talent. Consider utilizing job boards that reach the audiences you want to target, like The Mom Project, a talent marketplace with over 500,000 diverse women looking for employers that get it, and who understand the valuable skills that they have to offer, both as a mother and a professional. 

6. Complete a Pay Equity Audit

Did you know that, at the current rate, it will take until 2059 for women to achieve equal pay? It’s a shocking statistic but shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that working women still earn 16% less than men on average.

Enterprise companies must complete equal pay audits, and ensure that all employees are being compensated fairly and there aren’t any significant salary disparities—especially along gender, age, and racial lines. 

And hey — it benefits your bottom line, too, as it’s estimated that closing the gender gap would add £23 trillion to the value of the global economy by 2025 — a 26% increase. 

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