What Do More Women in the Workplace Mean to HR?

The Herman Group published a trend alert entitled Increasing Numbers of Women Graduates that I thought was pretty interesting because of the implications it has for companies and human resources deparments. Having more women in the workplace has some meaning to HR in what HR will have to be prepared to deal with in the future.
Based on a study published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development the Herman Trend Alert reports that:

  • In 32 of the 34 countries that are members, more girls than boys now complete their secondary education.
  •  Across the globe, women accounted for 58 percent of graduates within OECD member states in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available
  • The largest area of study being pursued seems to be health and welfare, followed by education.
  • Men continue to dominate the sciences: worldwide, about 60 percent of science graduates are male.
  • Women make up almost three-quarters of the graduating students in health and welfare, and almost two-thirds of the graduates in humanities and the arts.

Here in my home state of Georgia, I remember hearing about the fact that more women now attend the universities and colleges in the state than do men, with the exception of two, Georgia Tech and Southern Polytechnic.
The implications from this trend is that more and more women will eventually moving into bigger and bigger roles within companies, including leadership positions. Much of this will occur while most of these women are of child-bearing age. So the question becomes, what impact with this have on companies and what will HR have to be prepared to deal with?
The folks at The Herman Group said:

 “Employers will have to work harder than ever to keep women on the job, so there will be more emphasis on lactation rooms and childcare onsite and back-up services to help young parents cope. We also expect to see more stay-at-home dads and gender-specific programs aimed at boys to encourage them to stay in school…. In the future, it will be more important than ever to keep childcare costs reasonable, yet the latest study reports that childcare costs are rising.”

Of course we have already seen some of these issues arise, at least in the United States with the changes in the FLSA making lacation breaks and space mandatory for many companies. This will have to be extended to exempt level employees as well. I think there are some other implications as well. These include:

  • A much greater awareness of compensation issues. Whether you believe there is pay inequality or not there is still a wide held impression that it exists. If your company will wish to attract high quality women employees that perception will have to be eradicated
  • There will need to be an even greater emphasis on “work/personal life balance” if you wish to retain high quality female employees.
  • The nature of benefit packages, regardless of healthcare, will probably change to include more “family” oriented measures.

These are just some of the issues that strategic HR departments will have to be facing. Ask yourself the question “What will our company have to do and have to look like if 75% of our employees are women?” And then make plans.
Also, a word of advice to companies that are science related. You may have some talent acquisition problems on your hands in the future. Shortages of science educated employees may be on the horizon. I would encourage you to start developing programs to get girls interested in math and science. Work now with school programs to develop contests, scholarships, etc. I found out this past weekend that the U.S. Army is doing that. They have a mobile classroom that tours the country to get school kids interested in science. I am sure that the Army has realized that their future employees are going to have to have science and math backgrounds. Perhaps you should too.

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