As part of National Inclusion Week Alexandra Hendry explains why organisations are increasingly using counter offers to retain female talent.. 

Alex Hendry

Alex Hendry

The LSE and Mastercard Inclusion Initiative, which interviewed black women in finance, professional services and technology, discovered that 14 of the 32 women who resigned from their roles were presented with monetary offers to stay. The majority of businesses recognise the importance of having female, diverse and inclusive talent at board level and within their senior leadership team. When someone who fits this criteria resigns, this can cause panic and organisations will do everything to retain the person looking to leave.

Every single senior female candidate we have secured for a role has received a counter offer from their existing company. This approach is prevalent among companies keen to keep female leaders and, we have noticed, female candidates themselves are more likely to entertain a responding pay rise. They will often feel a sense of guilt that their employer will need to find an alternative solution.

Many senior, female candidates have a strong sense of loyalty and integrity, which causes them to give their current organisation a second chance. Ironically, those very qualities that make female leaders so valuable also contribute to a more open approach to counter offers: recent research shows 55% of women leaders were ranked by their followers as being wise and compassionate compared with only 27% of men. Frustratingly, the company trying to keep their female talent wouldn’t demonstrate the same type of integrity if they had to make job cuts.

I have seen some extremely talented candidates decline career-changing job offers. We must better nurture current and future female leaders to achieve gender balance in the boardroom. Current employers must focus on supporting and developing them and, if they’re not, women shouldn’t turn down promising opportunities to stay.

Our experience is that senior talent leaves an organisation because of corporate culture, not feeling valued or not being given the right opportunities; it’s rarely down to salary alone. Offering a financial reward to stay just papers over the cracks and seldom addresses the underlying issues. According to Phaidon International Research, 80% of candidates who accept a counter offer from their current employer end up leaving within six months anyway. Our experience is that women stay in roles for longer than men, with organisations retaining top female talent by not necessarily doing very much at all.

Recent research shows that negotiating pay leaves 69% of women feeling anxious or worried, 25% fearing rejection, 23% lacking in confidence and 21% concerned about seeming pushy. Furthermore, the study reveals that a ‘confidence gap’ still hinders pay equity, with one in five women fearing that negotiating on their salary may damage their career.

Real estate companies have started to focus on talent diversity and inclusion, particularly around recruitment. What we’re beginning to see is a disconnect in the way that senior women are recruited versus the way they are promoted and rewarded, all within the same organisation. We see that the glass ceiling still very much exists within some firms.

Despite challenging market conditions, requirements for female and diverse talent remain high, even more so at senior levels. Real estate firms recruiting for positions are increasingly demanding diverse shortlists so we will see more competition to recruit and retain female talent. Counter offers for women will become more prevalent as approaches from competitors rise. Women in our industry looking to take on new board-level or senior management roles should not be hindered by feelings of guilt or misguided loyalty to their current companies.

Women are less likely to put themselves forward for a promotion or ask for a pay review than their male colleagues. This contributes to many being under-promoted and under-paid because it’s been easier for companies to overlook the issue if it doesn’t cause them obvious pain.

We have a perfect storm brewing: a cohort of senior, valuable female talent that has been overlooked within an industry where there is now tremendous demand for them. Women will have to seriously consider what they really want from an organisation, what they want to achieve in their career and what would make a role rewarding. If their current job isn’t delivering at least 80% of this, don’t be afraid to accept better options.

Alexandra Hendry is director at Madison Lincoln