Implementing Work-Life Design to Retain Women in Stem

KellyOCG Staff

July 25, 2016

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Linda Stuit

Retaining more women in STEM occupations is closely linked to offering specific work-life design elements at critical points during their career. Worldwide, women in every career stage placed the highest value on salary and benefits. However, when women reach the mid-career stage, which coincides with the years typically also dedicated to starting and raising a family, their second priority changes. In both the specialist and mid-manager level, the majority of women valued work-life balance less than financial incentives - but more than career advancement, training opportunities, and the chance to work on innovative projects.

Work-life design isn't limited to just a good work-life balance. It also encompasses other elements such as the ability to take advantage of corporate wellness programs; childcare and caregiver support; limits on being accessible after work hours; and fostering friendships in the workplace. The extent to which women value these different work-life design elements depends in large part on where they are in their career. Consider the following points:

  • At the entry level, specialist level, and mid-manager level, the majority of women in STEM place high value on paid time off and childcare support.

  • Those at the specialist and mid-manager levels also placed high value on flexible work arrangements.

  • At the executive level, women placed high value on limits on hours. This could be motivated by the fact that they want to feel supported by their employers by not having to work extra long hours in order to prove themselves.

  • In comparison to men, women in STEM consider flexible work arrangements and work-life balance to be more important when evaluating one job over another. At the same time, women are also more likely to consider working as free agents in order to secure the work-life balance they want: only six percent of men are open to this option versus 14 percent of women. Similarly, 25 percent of women list telework as a main motivator to either remain with their current employer or pursue other employment.

    Work-life design elements such as flexible work opportunities, childcare support, and paid time off are critical to retaining women in STEM - especially as female employees progress from entry-level positions to mid-career positions. To learn more about implementing work-life design to retain more women in STEM, read the report "Women in STEM: How and why an inclusive strategy is critical to closing the STEM talent gap."

    Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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