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How businesses can attract and retain female talent

  • Written by Emma Seymour, CFO at Deputy

Creating equal opportunity for all is key in helping businesses attract and retain female talent. Despite low unemployment rates in Australia reported by the ABS at only 3.5 percent, a considerable number of Australians who are eligible to work are choosing not to, with women missing from the workplace in greater numbers than others.

According to Deputy’s Big Shift Report, there is a significant latent workforce amongst female workers, particularly those with young children who find it difficult to access affordable childcare among many other barriers to re-entering the workforce. It is important for businesses to consider how to attract and retain female talent in the workplace by offering tangible solutions such as flexible working policies, paid parental leave and female mentorship and leadership from the top to drive and prioritise these efforts.

Implementing policies and practises to support gender equality

Inflexible work arrangements typically pose greater challenges for women who in most cases undertake a larger portion of childcare responsibilities. This certainly rang true in a pre-Covid era when women going through significant life changes, like starting a family, faced having to leave full-time employment in order to take on a disproportionate level of caregiving responsibilities. As the world of work changes, knowing and understanding the differing needs of employees is crucial to breaking down barriers that restrict so many women from joining the workforce.

When discussing the barriers women face entering the workforce, it would be remiss not to highlight adequate access to childcare. For many women, the cost of childcare in comparison to projected earning potential is too great to return to work full-time, if at all. According to ABS research, in 2022, there were 1.8 million potential workers, 745,000 of whom were available to work within four weeks. Of the smaller group, 113,600 identified childcare as the main reason why they did not actively look for work.

To support women entering the workforce businesses can offer benefits and implement policies designed to accommodate female talent. These include paid parental leave and flexible working arrangements to embrace better work-life integration. Looking specifically at hospitality, 22% of business owners are beginning to introduce flexible working arrangements to specifically encourage more women into the workforce. This is a positive step in the right direction and one other business owners should consider adapting to support gender equality.

Leading from the top: fostering female mentorship

When looking to attract and retain female talent, businesses who focus on leading with diversity from the top will have the most success. Ensuring DE&I practices are woven into the fabric of an organisation by taking a top down approach allows for greater levels of representation across all areas. This starts by having women in leadership positions increasing visibility and allowing for a range of experiences to inform business practices. Currently in Australia, it is projected that women will need more than 200 years to reach pay equity with men. So, while women certainly have more options than ever before, the gap is still significant and creating equality of opportunity starts from the top and requires constant attention.

Another way for businesses to attract and retain top female talent, is to implement structural change through mentorship programmes and community building to encourage women back into the workforce. These structures allow for women to connect and gain clarity on their career paths at different stages of life and ensure they feel supported to do their best work.

From previous experience early in my career, female mentors set a fantastic example of how to lead. By observing their approach to work and how they overcame challenges, I learned how to lead with purpose and drive real business change that is also reflective of my core values. Being surrounded by women who are excited to see others thrive is also incredibly impactful and positively shapes career paths.

With many women remaining out of the workforce, it is up to businesses to offer inclusive solutions in order to attract and retain female talent. Implementing flexible policies, leading with diversity from the top, and presenting mentoring opportunities are key in creating a workforce that truly represents an increasingly diverse Australia.

Emma Seymour, CFO at Deputy


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