Study proves men are from Mars

Women prioritize work-life balance, healthy workplace
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/14/2011

When it comes to making career decisions, young men and women want very different things, according to a survey of nearly 28,000 Canadian university and college students.

Some of the biggest differences between women and men are work-life balance (63 per cent versus 51 per cent), a healthy workplace (62 per cent versus 45 per cent), job security (57 per cent versus 44 per cent), commitment to social responsibility (36 per cent versus 26 per cent) and a good health and benefits plan (50 per cent versus 35 per cent).

The majority of graduates entering the workforce are women so the challenge is developing recruitment and retention strategies that are more in line with how they make their career decisions, said Graham Donald, president of strategic consulting firm Brainstorm in Victoria, B.C., and co-author of the 2010 Canada’s Top Campus Employers Survey.

“The future of the educated workforce is female and we don’t think employers are at all keeping up in creating a workplace that’s more attractive to young women,” said Donald. “It’s still traditionally a male workplace, for most workplaces, especially professional ones that university grads are looking at.”

Employers have to be consistent so, of course, they can’t just offer women flexible work hours, for example, said Susan Grant, executive director of recruitment process outsourcing at Ceridian Canada in Markham, Ont.

“But during the interview process, knowing that type of data is important because you can focus on things that may be more important to women than men,” said Grant.

Gender differences often depend on where people are in their life cycles, she said. Interviews with single men and single women show few differences unless a woman is engaged or planning on having children, she said, and women want career advancement as much as men.

“Men might have more of a defined path but women want the opportunity to do more, be recognized, to the same degree as men,” she said.

When it comes to career goals, men and women are on the same page around work-life balance, secure employment and being intellectually challenged as these are their top goals. But differences emerge when it comes to serving a cause or greater good (78 per cent for women versus 67 per cent for men), becoming a leader in an organization (51 per cent for women, 62 per cent for men) and running a business (20 per cent for women, 33 per cent for men), found the survey.

Women coming out of university are often thinking about family, while male graduates are not yet there — but they will be down the road, said Donald.

“Accommodating young women in the workplace, you’re making a workplace that’s better for all employees. What they want are things most people would be quite happy with.”

University graduates are also increasingly keen to find an organization where they can spend their whole career, said Donald. However, employers have been told over and over again the younger generations are keen to have several jobs.

“As a result, companies have made themselves very comfortable watching recent hires leave after three years — they just assume, ‘It’s not our fault, these students are fickle and they don’t stick around.’ We believe it’s incumbent to… take ownership of retention as an issue.”

People want a secure and stable workplace and they want to explore different jobs at the same organization, said Donald, so that means giving them a varied experience and managing them well so they’ll stay. That message is also true for recruitment.

“Paint a picture that shows a variety of things you could be doing if you come to this company. Recent grads know very little about what’s there, what’s expected in the workplace and they’re quite afraid of making a decision that is final, so they love programs where it’s like two years of rotating through four positions.”

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