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Why CEO Sallie Krawcheck believes women-centered employee benefits are the future
Posted by Grace Townsley
January 25, 2023
According to Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck, companies that don’t prioritize the needs of their female workforce are not only missing out on opportunities to hire and retain top talent — they could be hurting their own bottom lines.
Historically, workforce benefits have favored men’s goals, priorities and needs
When Ellevest ran its annual Ellevest Financial Wellness Survey in September — surveying nearly 2,500 adults across the country — they uncovered some interesting differences in the financial priorities of men and women. Men prioritize saving for retirement, but supporting their family (which included child care, family planning, and taking care of a parent or sibling) ranked No. 4 on their list of top financial goals. On the other hand, women ranked supporting their family as priority No. 1 and growing their retirement savings as No. 4.
Nationwide, 401(k)s are by far the most popular employee-sponsored retirement benefit available. This future-focused benefit particularly favors men, who historically earn more over the course of their careers. It also requires savers to prioritize their long-term future, a luxury many women are unable to enjoy early on in their careers when they struggle to stretch their limited earnings across multiple priorities.
Krawcheck argues 401(k)s are just one of the many popular employer benefits that cater to men. Others include physical wellness benefits (men rank physical wellness as the most important kind of wellness, while women favor mental health), nutritional benefits, investment opportunities and financial planning benefits.
In a country where over half the workforce is female, why are the top employer benefits still geared towards men?
Krawcheck and others believe part of the issue is that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are led by men. In 2022, only 33 of these top-level companies had female CEOs, and women held only 29% of senior management roles around the world.
When any single gender, culture, personality or thought pattern have a majority hold, the environment tends to skew in favor of that majority. Until more women reach positions of leadership in top companies, their needs are likely to be undervalued, underrepresented and sometimes, downright ignored.
The consequence of one-sided employee benefits is clear
Ellevest’s survey revealed an unfortunate consequence of undervaluing the needs of over half of your workforce. A full 55% of all women surveyed, and 62% of millennial women, are actively looking for a new job. Plus, 38% of women surveyed by Ellevest report they are saving money in order to leave an unhealthy workplace.
Nationwide, ignoring the needs of women has a profound impact on the makeup of the U.S. workforce. As of 2022, 88.7% of working-age men participate in the workforce, but only 76.2% of women are involved. Considering that women hold the majority of positions in some of the most important industries in the country, including nursing, HR, and teaching, businesses must actively explore solutions to fairly compensate these essential female workers.
What’s the solution?
Popular benefits like 401(k) matching, financial planning assistance, and physical wellness incentives are valuable. But Krawcheck believes companies have a huge opportunity to add more benefits that address the unique needs of women.
Ellevest’s survey research revealed that the biggest benefits women look for when choosing where to work are:
Paid parental leave
Paid sick leave
Companies that prioritize these benefits give women access to the flexibility they need to be both employees and caretakers at home. Additional women-centric benefits companies can add include paid caregiving, expanded bereavement leave, time off to vote and expanded reproductive benefits.
Adding women-focused benefits may come with a steeper cost in the short-term. But according to Krawcheck, the cost is worth it.
Considering the high cost of employee turnover, burnout, quiet quitting and a disengaged workforce, Krawcheck asserts that the cost of adding women-centric benefits pays for itself within a few years — or even sooner. Expanded parental leave has already helped Google slash its turnover rate for women in half — saving the company tens of thousands of dollars per employee. That’s just one example of a small shift triggering a significant impact.
As Krawcheck sees it, in the midst of the Great Resignation, companies that want to continue attracting and retaining top talent — and particularly top female talent — must be willing to shift their focus. Traditional workplace benefits established decades ago, when women still made up a small majority of the workforce, no longer meet the needs of today’s families. And as an increasing number of young and forward-thinking companies are willing to listen to the needs of women, it’s going to become increasingly difficult for male-centric companies to hire and retain the talent they desperately need.
The cost of making these much-needed changes may be high, but the cost of losing your valuable employees and struggling to attract new talent, is much, much higher.
Want more? In addition to HR, benefits, recruiting and payroll through its PeopleOps, Escalon’s Essential Business Services include FinOps (CFO services, taxes, bookkeeping and accounting) and Risk (business insurance). Talk to an expert today.
As a professional copywriter in the finance and B2B space, Grace Townsley offers small business leaders big insights—one precisely chosen word at a time. Let's connect!