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Helping Clients Offer Inclusive Benefits for Female Employees

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Quick look: Women provide tremendous value to their employers and have returned from the pandemic with more motivation than before. However, they still face hurdles regarding wage and promotion equity, financial wellness, and caregiving responsibilities. Here’s how brokers can help clients offer inclusive benefits tailored to this important, valuable employee segment.

Studies show that women have recovered from the job loss they experienced during the pandemic and are more ambitious than ever. However, despite these recent wins, they still face challenges related to pay and opportunity equity, juggling their careers with caregiving, and financial wellness.

Here’s what work is like for women, the many advantages they bring to the workplace, and how brokers can offer an inclusive benefits package designed to help them succeed both professionally and personally.

Women at work (and home)

Understanding what work is like for women, both in the office and in their personal lives, is crucial to offering the right benefits for female employees.

Rising ranks—with room for improvement

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2023 report surveyed human resource leaders and employees at 276 organizations that employ over 10 million people and found that the number of women in C-suite, vice president, and senior vice president positions have jumped. For example, since 2015, the percentage of women in the C-suite has increased from 17% to 28%.

Unfortunately, women of color continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. To combat this, 60% of surveyed companies increased their investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) over the last year, and roughly 75% of HR leaders say DEI is critical to their organization’s future success.

Bouncing back from the pandemic

The McKinsey research also found that female employees have been increasingly ambitious, which may partially be attributed to the growing workplace flexibility that sparked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the study revealed that:

  • 90% of women under age 30 want to be promoted, and three-quarters hope to become senior leaders
  • Approximately 80% of women want to be promoted to the next level, versus 70% in 2019
  • One in five women say flexibility helped them stay at their job or avoid reducing hours
  • Many working women who work hybrid or remotely feel less fatigued and burnt out, and a majority say they have more focused work time when working at home

Working—and caregiving

Employees with caregiving responsibilities are the fastest-growing worker segment. And while nearly 17% of the U.S. adult population provides unpaid care to an adult over age 50, 75% of them are women.

70% of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their two roles. However, the right benefits can ease the pressure. A survey of nearly 700 female working caregivers found that the top five benefits they want are:

  1. Flexibility, including hybrid or remote work, flex hours, and more
  2. Paid leave, as over half of respondents said if the leave wasn’t paid, they wouldn’t be able to afford to take it
  3. Financial assistance, like financial planning guidance
  4. Caregiving resources, including stress management programs which can be provided via an employee assistance program (EAP)
  5. Employee resource groups to connect with other staff with similar experiences

Brokers can work with a professional employer organization (PEO) to connect small businesses and their staff with these highly valued benefits.

The financial wellness gap

Women also have a disproportionate experience when it comes to financial wellness, during their working years and beyond.

And while many employers have adjusted pay strategies, for some, the gender pay gap remains persistent. On average, women currently earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, and the gap is even larger for women of color.

Unfortunately, the inequality continues into retirement. According to the American Association of University Women, a non-profit organization that advances equity for women and girls, women have just 70% of the overall retirement income that men have. Additionally, women are more likely than men to be less financially stable later in life—62% of Americans age 65 and up living below the poverty line are women—an especially troublesome statistic considering women live about six years longer than men, on average.

What women bring to the table

Despite the challenges they face, female employees provide enormous advantages to their employers. For example:

  • Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform companies with the lowest representation
  • Gender-diverse teams have higher sales and profits compared to male-dominated teams
  • Compared to less diverse business units, gender-diverse business units have higher average revenue

The benefits of having a diverse workforce aren’t limited to finances. Having an equal representation of women in the workforce is associated with:

How brokers can tailor benefits to support women

One of the best ways to empower working women is by providing them with the right employee benefits. As a broker, you can help clients attract and retain valuable women by building an inclusive benefits package designed to help them succeed, including:

  • 401(k) plan: Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can help women adequately prepare for their futures by offering a 401(k) plan with a company match, if possible. Better yet, when employers participate in a plan offered by a PEO, virtually all administrative tasks are offloaded to other parties.
  • Health insurance with FSA/HSA options: Nearly 75% more men than women have a health savings account (HSA), and their balances are 49% higher than women’s. Employers can help narrow that gap by providing a health insurance plan that includes HSA and flexible savings account (FSA) options. FSAs can also pay for eligible dependent care services, including child and adult daycare, before or after school programs, preschool, and summer day camps.
  • Student loan repayment: Women hold 66% of all student loan debt, making student loan repayment benefits especially appealing to them. Additionally, the perks of offering such a plan are wide-reaching: 85% of all workers with student loan debt would be motivated to leave their jobs for one that offered stronger financial wellness benefits.
  • Flexibility: With so many female employees juggling personal and professional demands, offering a flexible work environment is key. Brokers can encourage clients to provide:
    • Remote and hybrid work: Remote work and an accommodating schedule make life easier in many ways—from being able to quickly step away to pick up a child from school to being available to administer medicine to an aging parent.
    • Compressed work weeks: For working women who also act as caregivers, a compressed workweek could be just what the doctor ordered, literally. Caregivers often need to bring loved ones to doctor appointments, and offering compressed work weeks (like four 10-hour days) can allow them to attend those appointments while remaining employed full-time.
    • Part-time employment opportunities: It can be beneficial for SMBs to allow employees to work part-time hours or hire a second part-time worker if a working caregiver has too much on their plate and needs more time off.
  • Access to an EAP: An EAP can offer the right support (at no cost to the employee) exactly when women need it most by providing confidential advice, 24/7, on a variety of topics like physical and mental health, financial wellness, and more.
  • Other women-centric benefits, like access to breastfeeding support services for working mothers of young children.

How a PEO can help you level the playing field

The process of creating an equitable workplace for women can be simplified when brokers choose to partner with a PEO. A broker-centric PEO like ExtensisHR can provide robust, inclusive benefits for female employees, as well as access to a DEI Dashboard, which SMBs can use to compare real-time information about pay equity, promotions, and more.

Are you ready to uplift your clients’ hardworking women? Contact ExtensisHR to discover how we can help.

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