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Find out why your organisation may not be an employer of choice for women

A female HR director was said to me this week that her male colleagues did not seem to be aware of the extent to which the large company they worked for had a culture that was alienating women.


In another large company, the group HR director believed that it had a macho culture, and this was the reason why they had lost 50 percent of their high potential female recruits in the last 2 years. In this instance, an HR colleague had interviewed some high potential women, and the findings did not support the group HR director's intuition. She asked Ian Dodds Consulting (IDC) to conduct a turnover analysis in which we interviewed 25 women and 25 men that had recently left, by telephone.


The results of the turnover analysis were conclusive. The women had mostly left because they were not comfortable with the culture, which they found oppressively male-oriented. This resulted in them feeling that they were not fully involved in the business's decision-making processes, and were under-valued. The male leavers, however, had mostly resigned because of a better outside opportunity, or dissatisfaction with the organisation's rewards and promotion practices.


So why did our turnover analysis result in a different finding to the internal survey? There are three reasons:


We used experienced female consultants to interview the women, and male ones to interview the men. It is our experience in our diversity interviewing and focus group processes that it is vital to use consultants who mirror the identity of each diversity group consulted. This enables the respondents to feel that the consultants can empathise with, and appreciate, their issues and experiences.

The consultants were external, and some of the issues that needed to be aired were sensitive and would come across as critical to internal company representatives, and so women are reluctant to raise them.

Our interviewing and focus group practices are underpinned by change management methodology. This enables our consultants to determine what is helping and hindering women and men in their organisation. It means too that issues arising from the different ways in which women and men tend to experience its culture become known.

Retaining talented women is a critical issue for many organisations. The reasons they experience a higher turnover of talented women compared to men are complex, and vary between organisations. This means that it is extremely important to determine the priority causes for disparities between retention rates for men and women.


Our state-of-the-art assessment methods, using focus groups or turnover analysis, or our online Q-Sort surveys, are the first step to obtaining the data needed to formulate a diversity action plan to decrease the disparity. They are highly effective because they incorporate the best practice points I have described. Of course, this methodology is also powerful for determining disparities in retention for all the different diversity categories, e.g. men, women, ethnic minorities, disabled people, gay and lesbian people.


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