Retaining women workers implies a need for more education

Women send a message and they send it with their feet. In 2020 alone, 2.5 million women have chosen to leave the labor market, in addition to 5.4 million women who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The statistics are heartbreaking for many of us who applauded the fact that women were entering the workforce in record numbers just before the pandemic. Although women still did not earn as much as men, the future looked bright.

So what will bring them back? We know that childcare, flexible working hours and the ability to work from home are a priority for working women. But in addition to these benefits, employers should also focus on education, which takes the form of career planning, investments in learning and development, and personalized training for the jobs most. lucrative and most popular of the future.

If that sounds like a daunting task, there is one sure-fire place to start: employer-provided education and tuition assistance benefits. These types of offers provide opportunities for employees that will propel them into roles of the future where they are currently under-represented, such as data science, software development and engineering. Women hold 56% of university degrees overall, but only 36% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees, and make up only 25% of the STEM workforce, according to the World Economic Forum.

Investing in education will be essential for women if they are to play a role in the future workforce. On the one hand, research has shown that the future of automation and advances in digital technology will disproportionately affect women, a segment of the workforce overrepresented in roles highly vulnerable to automation. , including clerical roles like back office and administrative staff, customer service and call center jobs, and front line service jobs.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that 11% jobs currently held by women (a higher percentage than jobs held by men) are threatened with elimination due to artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies.

Without a doubt, women are exceptionally vital to our workforce. History tells us that when more women participate in the workforce, economies tend to grow. For organizations, recruiting and retaining employees is not only about contributing to a diverse and equitable workforce, but also about creating a workforce that reflects the fabric of our country and putting the companies able to compete globally.

So what can organizations do to promote women in their current workforce into well-paying careers and roles that will allow them to continue to be successful in the future? Below are four concrete ways to ensure that female employees have the same access to training opportunities that will help them advance their careers as men:

  • Remove cost barriers: According to the recent report from EdAssisst Solution study of working adults, women reported financial barriers as one of the most significant barriers to participating in education programs. Employers can help relieve employees of cost concerns by eliminating the need to prepay by paying school directly, and perhaps even by covering some or all of the costs of the program. T-Mobile, for example, covers 100% of tuition, fees, and books for employees, in addition to prepaying tuition in advance, leaving employees free of charge. As a result, the company recorded a 92% retention rate for users of educational programs.
  • Offer short, non-degree options to remove time constraints: Providing employees with a variety of programs to choose from, such as boot camps and job certifications, will be key to the educational success of time-strapped employees. Raytheon Technologies recently expanded its educational benefits program to include degree-free offerings for certificates, certifications, and credit-free massive open online courses (MOOCs). The program has a proven track record among employees, with a utilization rate of 6% in the United States and Canada across the organization.
  • Communicate and encourage women to seek education programs: According to our study, more than half of women feel they are not getting the advice they need from their employers to continue their education, including what programs are available to them, how to get started, or what skills will best benefit their careers. Maintaining an open dialogue with employees about training opportunities through discussions with managers, annual reviews, employee newsletters, and even instructional coaches can help employees understand their best path to career. success. A company we work with that was looking to increase the representation of women in leadership roles added success coaching to their training program, as well as increased communication with employees around the program. As a result, they saw female employee participation double that of male employees.
  • Provide support for student loans: Support for student loans is also worth considering, as student borrowers have a 9.6% higher average debt than their male peers one year after graduation, which may prevent them from pursuing further education. Orlando Health offers both a generous tuition assistance program and a student loan repayment program to supplement it. In 2020 alone, Orlando Health supported 619 nurses on their graduation journey and improved the financial well-being of nearly 600 nurses to date with student loan assistance. The healthcare system has seen a more than 10% increase in employee retention among those participating in its education benefits program.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention one additional benefit that will have a direct impact on a woman’s ability to enroll in an education program: child care. If an employee has children and is already balancing work and family, offering a child care allowance would help remove a major barrier to completing a study program – giving them the peace of mind of the day. mind that he can focus on the skills and content at hand without worrying about what their child is doing in the next room.

The organizations that will continue to prosper in the future will all have one common characteristic: a commitment to diversity and the promotion of a culture of growth and development. Providing professional development and career advancement opportunities tailored to the future needs of the workforce will provide women in risky jobs with the valuable skills they need to advance their careers and excel in their roles. Organizations that see the value of investing in both skills development and the diversity of their workforce now will find themselves at the forefront of the future of work.


Dr Jill Buban is Vice President and General Manager of EdAssist Solutions at Bright Horizons, an employee solutions company, providing services such as child care and education for working families.


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