The senior care profession has seen plenty of changes and stresses over the last few years.  Although health services are traditionally filled with a disproportionate number of women, these stresses are not just a workplace issue, but a gendered one as well. To continue attracting and retaining top talent in 2023 and beyond, it’s important to understand some of the top priorities for women in the workplace today.


Priority #1: Flexible Scheduling

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant rise in employees seeking non-traditional work schedules and arrangements. According to one Gallup survey, around 60% of remote-capable employees would actually prefer a long-term hybrid work arrangement, alternating between in-office days and work-from-home.

A flexible scheduling arrangement can mean different things in different aspects of senior care. For office-based roles, like sales or administration, consider implementing the option for hybrid work where possible, particularly when individuals can have some control over where they work and when. For roles that require in-person work, such as nursing and other care professions, ensure that there is enough staff to cover days off, flex hours, and generally ensure continued quality of care without stretching staff thin to the point of burnout.

For many women, the rise of hybrid work has been something of a double-edged sword: work-from-home offers more opportunities to balance a career with the home-based labor that disproportionately tends to be placed in women’s laps, while also opening doors to women with disabilities, women without access to reliable transportation, and other barriers. However, that same blurring of work/home boundaries can also lead to increased pressures and burnout, as well as a lack of connection to the team. For this reason, many women aren’t prioritizing hybrid or remote work point-blank, but rather flexibility.


Priority #2: Leadership and Career Development

Gartner reports that 47% of HR leaders are prioritizing employee experience in 2023, particularly when it comes to career development – and it’s not a moment too soon. In a competitive labor market, it’s critical for organizations to have clear career paths and commit to developing talent over the years.

Women, however, are still experiencing a disproportionately difficult path to leadership. An annual study from McKinsey and LeanIn revealed the challenges currently facing women aspiring to leadership, as well as companies looking to diversify their leadership teams:

  • 41% of women of color say they want to be top executives, compared with 27% of White women.
  • Women lose out at the “first rung” on the leadership ladder, or first-step management roles. For every 100 men who are promoted to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted, creating a pipeline problem at higher levels.
  • Women in leadership are leaving their companies at a rate of 10.5%, the highest level in years.
  • Women are more likely to have colleagues imply they are unqualified for their roles and/or be mistaken for someone junior.
  • These factors are exacerbated for women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women with disabilities, all of whom report increased instances of microaggressions, demeaning behavior towards them, and a lack of support for their advancement.

Women in the senior care field face many of these same headwinds, along with historical stereotypes about gender, “value,” and the caring professions. It’s no surprise, then, that women in today’s senior care world are looking to work for organizations that will commit to their career development from the very start.


Priority #3: Commitment to Well-Being

While healthcare and senior care are fields that focus on care and well-being, that doesn’t always extend to employees, and staffing numbers are showing it. In December 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported approximately 575,000 healthcare workers quitting their jobs, or about 2.7% of the workforce. Fatigue, overwork, pay, staffing shortages, and sometimes-hostile public interactions have all contributed to this ongoing exodus.

Pair that with the fact that 17% of women leaders who have switched jobs in the past two years cited an organization’s commitment to well-being as a reason to switch (with young women particularly emphasizing it), and it becomes clear that overall focus on well-being can make or break retention in the healthcare world. Women are burned-out on being asked to shoulder extra work without adequate pay, recognition, and advancement, and they’re looking for workplaces that define success outside of pure numbers. While frontline workers often bear the brunt of the burden, it trickles into other areas of senior care operations; culture is across the board.

People who go into healthcare and senior care are often very invested in and passionate about their work and about helping people, but they need the same care shown to them that they provide to clients – or they’ll have no qualms about looking elsewhere to get it. By addressing key concerns with real, tangible steps, organizations can retain and develop talent for critical roles, allowing them to continue growing and providing excellent care to clients for the long term.

By Tom Zeleny, NHA