NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Efforts to Retain Female Employees

January 7, 2004

Corporate America is taking a new step forward in efforts to keep their employees, especially women. The latest solution to the problem of declining employee retention rates is extended leaves of absence, some as long as five years.

Programs are most common in areas like finance and accounting, where women have made major inroads in recent years. These workers are valuable due to their experience and the investment companies make in training them:

  • The rate of working mothers with young children is declining -- from 59 percent of new mothers in 1998 to 55 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • More than one-quarter of women who plan to have children think they will stop working for more than a few months, according to a survey of about 3,500 workers.
  • Higher retention rates can save employers money -- for instance, prominent accounting firm Deloitte and Touche LLP said its existing flexibility programs saved the company $41.5 million in turnover costs in fiscal 2003.
  • 59 percent of recent leave-takers said that if their request for time hadn't been approved, they would have left the company completely.
  • While open to both sexes, 80 percent of those using the program have been women, and the most common reason cited for taking a leave is "parenting."

IBM's leave is unpaid, but workers retain their health benefits. Though they are not guaranteed their old jobs when they return, IBM makes an effort to get them something comparable.

Source: Anne Marie Shaker, "Luring Moms Back to Work," Wall Street Journal, December 30, 2003.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB107274614321797700,00.html


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