How to Keep Your Female Talent

Breaking glass ceilings and empowering women in the workplace. Learn how progressive employers are fighting against the “Shecession.”

Good employees are hard to find, and when you find them, you want to keep them. But what if forces outside your control (e.g., a global pandemic and accompanying economic crisis) are threatening a large portion of your workforce? With female unemployment exploding at an alarming and disproportionate rate, what are the ramifications and what can companies do to help?

The Fearless-Girl Decade

The last decade marked a progressive leap for women throughout the corporate world. In 2019, there were 76,852,000 working women in America, representing close to half (47.0%) of the total labor force.1 Empowered women everywhere were breaking glass ceilings. More than 50% of women in the labor force held college degrees. In fact, 57% of bachelor’s degrees were being earned by women, and there was a 22% increase in C-level female leadership in the last six years alone.2 In addition, the 49th Vice President of the United States is not only a woman but a woman of color. Fearless women are continuing to smash outdated notions and blaze forward, or so we thought …

The “Shecession” Impact

With the COVID-19 recession disproportionately affecting women, it has been dubbed the "Shecession." This is largely due to how harshly the pandemic and social distancing measures have impacted many of the most female-concentrated industry sectors — such as restaurants, retail and hospitality.3 On top of that, pressures of the pandemic have resulted in a staggering two million female workers considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether.

The seven most common reasons why women are considering a step down or step back:4

If these women step away, it could create holes in the corporate pipeline for generations to come.

Companies Hear the Call

Fortunately, companies recognize the impact this could have and are taking steps to help employees in the wake of the pandemic.5

  • Nearly three out of five companies have allowed workers to work remotely or on flexible schedules.
  • Child assistance is among the top five benefits companies plan to offer in 2021.
  • Paid sick leave.
  • Companies are committed to creating an environment where employees can talk about their financial health. Over half of American companies currently discuss employee financial health in top HR management meetings, and 30% are planning to offer personalized coaching/credit counseling by financial professionals.
  • In 2020 Morgan Stanley-sponsored workplace benefits survey, one HR executive spoke about the importance of providing for the "whole employee": "...When someone works for you, you get the whole self. You get their family, their kids, their problems. They can't just close the door to your building and come in and say, Sorry, I'm at work now, family. The family is in the other room, and it's never been as apparent as it is today that you don't just get an employee. You get everything that comes with them."

In addition to these initiatives, companies are realizing the need for more robust measurements. Only 45% of companies track financial wellness by gender,6 and the absence of this data could create holes in benefit packages, leaving some employees without the solutions they really need.

Financial Empowerment

Among female employees,

  • Six out of ten cite personal finances as their top cause of stress
  • Over 50% of women have less than $1,000 in emergency savings
  • Only 32% say they are confident they can retire when they want
  • Only 40% are comfortable selecting investments that are right for them7

At the same time, female employees are less likely to have a financial advisor and to express comfort with receiving financial advice at work.8

This is why employers should encourage female workers to take advantage of financial wellness programs by tailoring communications to them, highlighting how benefits can help, allowing easy access and simplifying the enrollment process. Plus, employers should offer access to digital resources that are available 24/7 and hands-on resources like financial coaches and onsite or virtual live seminars to help with investment strategies, budgeting tools, savings best practices and financial calculators9.

Targeted Benefit Solutions

Knowledge is power when it comes to building impactful benefits. A few red flags to have on your radar include job exits, 401(k) loans and pay advances. When assessing these areas, take note of any trends, such as more job exits by female workers than their male peers. Then conduct an anonymous survey in order to learn about your employees' emotional and financial health, and better understand what workplace benefits they would use to address their needs.

Use this knowledge to tailor wellness resources that support your workforce. Then apply this information to offer accessible financial education and wellness resources targeted toward your female employees, such as emergency savings, dependent care and retirement planning.

For more ways your Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor can provide support for you and your employees, contact us today.

Empower Your Workforce

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1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 3: Employment Status of the Civilian Non institutional Population by Age, Sex, and Race,” Current Population Survey (2020).

2 McKinsey & Company and Lean In, “Women in the Workplace 2020," Sept. 2020.

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, “COVID-19 recession is tougher on women,” Sept 2020.

4 McKinsey & Company and Lean In, “Women in the Workplace 2020,” Sept. 2020.

5 Morgan Stanley and Financial Health Network, “Financial Health Benefits in the Workplace,” Sept. 2020.

6 Morgan Stanley and Financial Health Network, “Financial Health Benefits in the Workplace,” Sept. 2020.

7 PwC, “8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey,” 2019.

8 Financial Health Network, “Better for Employees, Better for Business," Sept 2019.

9 Financial Health Network, “Better for Employees, Better for Business," Sept 2019.


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