Companies still falling short in supporting women in the workplace
While the introduction of hybrid work in the last three years has acted as an equalizer for many women in the workplace, companies are still falling short when it comes to what benefits they offer for women of all ages.
New research from job search engine Adzuna found that only 304,093 of the over 8 million job ads available in February, which is less than 4%, cited perks aimed at retaining women in the workplace and supporting them to thrive. Only 275,374 ads promoted enhanced maternity or parental leave, and just 14,705 postings offered some kind of support with childcare costs (including onsite daycare or backup childcare).
Other emerging benefits, like menopause support and pregnancy loss leave, had even lower numbers. Despite recent evidence showing 1 in 10 women aged between 45 and 55 years old leave the workforce due to symptoms of menopause, only 312 job ads mention menopause support. It was the first year since 2020 that Adzuna had a single job ad that included menopause support. A survey from hormone therapy specialist Biote found 40% of women said menopause interfered with their work performance at least weekly.
Lack of menopause support
There have been large strides in the workplace for women, nonbinary and trans individuals, like working towards closing the pay gap with pay transparency for example. However, the stigma around topics like menopause, similar to menstrual leave, means conversations about how to provide benefits for those undergoing it, are extremely rare. The numbers from Adzuna show how important it is for these benefits to be included on job advertisements, which can ultimately attract more candidates.
“A lot of women take time off for symptoms associated with menopause, but never talk about it,” Brooke Quinn, chief customer officer at Carrot Fertility, told WorkLife in October. “I doubt women are going to their leaders and saying they need to take time off because they’re going through menopause.”
That’s exactly why she and others argue that it should be an employer benefit so that women don’t need to pool it with their other sick days and need to explain their situations.
James Neave, head of data science at Adzuna, says that while it’s nice to see a small blip of job ads including menopause support, the data doesn’t take into account that those 312 job ads could have been from just a small handful of companies which added this benefit and are hiring a number of individuals. “It’s still a real drop in the ocean,” said Neave. “All it takes is a handful of small companies, or even potentially one big company, to decide to offer these benefits. Hopefully when we look next year, it will continue to trend.”
Only 10 U.S. job ads offered menstrual leave. Research by ResumeBuilder has found 78% of Americans are in favor of the introduction of menstrual leave legislation, with 79% of women under 45 years old saying they would use such a policy.
“Women remain woefully under-supported in the workplace,” said Paul Lewis, chief customer officer at Adzuna, in a press release. “Instead of free Netflix subscriptions and ‘pawternity’ leave, employers need to focus on benefits that support female employees.”
Evolving reproductive health restrictions
However, one area that does seem to be gaining more attention from employers: reproductive health benefits. Evolving reproductive health restrictions in the U.S. have prompted more employers (71%) to commit more investment to benefits and policies that accommodate reproductive health needs following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to a report from Maven, a virtual clinic for women’s and family health.
Of these workers, 46% say that anxiety around the Roe v. Wade ruling – which opened up the ability of individual states in the U.S. to ban or severely restrict abortions – is affecting their productivity at work, according to the same report, which polled over 1,100 employees and nearly 600 HR decision-makers. And 64% of the employees polled said that they have missed work this year because of their fertility and family health needs, while 41% said their employer is out of step with what kinds of benefits they need to be offered.
However, there are some women’s health benefits that have trended upwards since 2020, according to the Adzuna data. “The sheer rate of increase is astounding for some of these,” said Adzuna’s Neave. “It’s an exponential trend that we’ve seen. It’s a little bit of catch-up time where women haven’t been so supported in the workplace overall, but benefits is one area that can help.”
For example, only 20 job ads in 2020 included IVF, egg freezing and fertility benefits, but in 2023 that number is 3,477. “I coached a woman who one of the biggest reasons she wanted to stay at her company was because they offered IVF assistance,” said Robbie Green, head of working parents & caregivers at HR services company Talking Talent. “That can cost upwards of $15,000 for treatment. That benefit alone was worth it for her to stay in their organization.”
Similarly, enhanced maternity and paternity leave was included in 13,469 job ads in 2020 but in 2023 there were 275,374. Childcare support has also increased from being in 49 job ads in 2020 to 733 in 2023.
While some things are trending upwards, it’s still an extremely small percentage overall. Retaining female talent is critical, but women feeling unsupported or underserved by their employer will cause them to leave. That’s why it’s important for companies who are offering these benefits to promote them.
“In the recruitment market, a lot of companies are looking at what their competitors are doing, so you quite quickly get a snowball effect where companies want to keep up with the perks that are being offered elsewhere,” said Neave.
Samantha Wellington, executive vp, business affairs, chief legal officer and secretary at HR solutions company TriNet, argues that more employers than we think are probably offering certain benefits, but they don’t do a good job at promoting them.
“They potentially are providing the benefits, but because they don’t have sufficient representation in the people who are making the decisions about how to structure a job ad, what’s important in a job ad, what attracts talent, and what talent needs, they’re not necessarily highlighting things that could be beneficial to attracting a more diverse workforce,” said Wellington.
She says it’s all about representation and whether or not you have women in senior positions that are talking about these issues. With more women today in C-suite positions than ever before, it makes sense as to why we’re finally hearing about benefits like menopause and menstrual support.
TriNet works with small to medium-sized clients to attract a more diverse workforce and in what ways to do that. The company helps its customers highlight certain elements of the benefits that they already have access to and either didn’t know they did or didn’t know how to highlight them.
If certain benefits aren’t included in a job ad, Green suggests rallying for yourself and seeing what the employer can offer during the interview process by negotiating.
“Women are often afraid to ask for it because they’ve already assumed how people will respond,” said Green. “Like ‘they’re not going to do that, no one else is doing that.’ I’m always encouraging people to be their very first advocate and ask for what you need to be transparent with all of your stakeholders. At different stages of your life you need different things.”
She says to get clarity around whatever you have questions about when it comes to how an employer will support you with different benefits. “Sometimes when you ask, you’re putting thoughts on the company’s mind to say ‘oh well, we don’t have that, but maybe we should,’” said Green.