The Shriver Report and in particular an essay by Maria Shriver named Powerful and Powerless, addresses this issue in detail in the context of the US workforce, and identifies issues that are relevant all over the world.
In the US, 70% of low wage employees do not receive any sick leave, as is common in a casualised workforce, and something we are experiencing in Australia. Two thirds of these workers are women. Women, and in particular mothers or carers, are more likely to work in hospitality or retail, in entry level customer service, caring roles or in administration – roles that are not traditionally full time, regular, secure and poorly paid. Shriver’s research also identified that 63% of these women are the family’s main source of income and in 40% of cases, the only one. And they do not have any paid sick leave? It’s a scary thought indeed.
Whether the role is casual or full time, of a high or lower pay scale, it still costs time and money to recruit and train new employees. If workers and in particular women, are not supported and valued there comes a point in time where they simply can’t exist on the small amount of money they are being paid and therefore leave the job. Businesses might think they are saving money by paying a pittance to the worker, but in the long run, it will cost them in time as well as money to recruit new workers.
This is where common sense, as well as business sense, highlights that taking care of female employees is a sensible financial decision for the benefit of the business, the team as a whole and the bottom line.
It may be tempting for a business or organization to keep wages low in an effort to increase profits but this can actually be counter-productive. It’s said if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. That may be a little unfair but people who feel valued in a variety of ways, including financially are likely to be more productive, better engaged, willing to learn and grow and continuously improve and therefore give you a competitive advantage. If you are lucky enough to pay peanuts but still attract incredible staff you won’t keep them long if you don’t pay them well enough and someone else will benefit from your training. People who are paid appropriately have better standard of living, better access to health services and more flexibility when it comes to child care. All of these things reduce absenteeism and increase the productivity and reliability of your female workforce.
Flexibility is one of the most requested benefits by employees of either sex, and even more relevant for women who are more likely to be the principal care giver for children, or for their aging parents. If you support and encourage your workforce to have a balanced and meaningful life by allowing them flexibility to attend school events, or transport family members to appointments, or work from home when a child is sick, you encourage loyalty and engagement in the goals of the organization as a whole. For women, loyalty is a primary value.
Staff turnover costs money; we know that already. So caring for all of your staff makes business sense as well as cents, but caring for your female team members will inevitably bring you more money, more loyalty and a hard-working team.
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