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3 ways companies can recruit women back to work and ease the talent crunch

The more than 3.5 million women who left the workforce during the pandemic could be the answer to a company’s Great Resignation woes. Here’s what leaders must do.

3 ways companies can recruit women back to work and ease the talent crunch
[Source illustration: Ponomariova_Maria/Getty Images]

Every company I know is freaking out—to put it mildly—about the talent shortage. Yet I haven’t heard a single one think about how to expand the pool of workers and, specifically, ask the most crucial question of all: How can we recruit women back into the working world?

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More than 3.5 million women have exited the workforce since the pandemic began, and while it’s true that Omicron continues to make the school-aftercare-quarantine-work an extremely volatile balancing act, companies can and should do better. 

The worker shortage is due, in large part, to too many workplaces making it impossible for working moms to stick around. They refused to bend—so working moms had to break. Rigid, intransigent workplaces were the final straw, the poisoned cherry on top of the noxious sundae of the stress of sick kids and school staff, teacher shortages, and unpredictable school schedules, COVID variants, and no vaccinations for kids under five, general existential dread, etc., etc., etc.

Something’s gotta give, as the saying goes. It’s just too bad it’s always the women.

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It doesn’t have to be that way. Companies are spending all their time and money trying to hold on to their workers. They’re wringing their hands and paying out bonuses that are as high as six figures or giving raises as much as 45% of salaries in some cases. They’re heads-down on the demand problem and overlooking the obvious: opening the supply spigot. Bringing even a portion of those three million-plus smart, capable, and experienced women back to active status would go a long way toward doing exactly that.

But to lure women back, companies have got to sweeten the deal considerably, which will benefit all workers–and businesses—alike.

Embrace asynchronous and remote working

The butts-in-seats, always 9-to-5 schedule is a relic of the past; some companies just don’t know it yet. By normalizing remote work and asynchronous schedules, you send a welcoming signal to women who may need to work different hours temporarily or even permanently to handle COVID-related crises beyond their control. How do I know? Because I’m doing this post at 10 pm after a long day of kids at home in quarantine.

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Remember: We have the technology to facilitate this so people don’t miss a beat no matter where they sit and when they work. Contrary to popular opinion, Slack is not a pager—you can, in fact, return messages at your own speed and get work done on a different timetable that still meets deadlines and ensures productivity. Whether it’s Notion or Mural or Asana, there are a thousand tools for documenting and organizing work, ensuring workers stay in sync, regardless of time zone. So, it’s a bit puzzling when companies can’t quite wrap their brains around the notion that quality work can get done before 9 or after 5, or even on a Saturday or a Sunday. 

And when companies make the switch, it’s good to remember that this ideally is not done with a big emphasis on being accommodating. That’s one step above being tolerant–like employers are condescending to “put up” with the realities of working women’s lives, as though these businesses were doing them some kind of favor. This is about trusting your employees. In fact, companies will get exactly what they pay for: experience, productivity, and results.

What companies offer matters more than ever

Being flexible is not the only thing that will bring women back. You have to offer something better: interesting projects, stretch assignments, leadership opportunities, a great work environment, inclusivity. Certain workers—and I’m thinking of tech workers here, who are typically in a more privileged position—may not even have to work. They might have excellent savings or stocks they can sell. They might be married to an equally high-earning partner who—you guessed it—got that 45% bonus as part of their company’s effort to cement the loyalty of a mobile workforce. 

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If the choice to work is theirs, that becomes an extra hurdle for companies to clear. After all, if these women don’t have to come back to a rigid workplace, why would they? And if they do decide to come back, why would they work for you among all the options out there? There better be a phenomenal reason—and it can’t just be lip service to the notion, “Because we accommodate working moms.” Your talent brand—and your ability to prove you mean what you say—will be your differentiator here.

Create that kinder, gentler workplace

We’re entering year three of the pandemic era. People are burned out. Women are carrying the family load. The end is clearly not in sight. This is not the time when the old-school workplace wins the day. They’re like the professional equivalent of the old-school meathead gyms of yesterday, where roided-out trainers screamed “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” in your ear. The companies that win today will adopt the inclusive, encouraging, wellness-first vibe of a more progressive fitness studio. They’ll be places where women won’t walk in with pits in their stomachs, but where they can exhale, knowing they’re supported and positively challenged in equal measure.


Amanda Richardson is the CEO of CoderPad, a leading software platform for evaluating technical talent. She has extensive experience in product management and strategy, having helped to scale multiple technology startups to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.  

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