After working to help Lehman Bros. recruit and retain women, Hanson recently founded Broad Impact to help companies in various industries to reach out to women. Here are a few pointers to employers on what they need to do to get talented women and keep them:
Constantly nurture your best talent. "Big firms have to do a better job of monitoring their talent," Hanson says. "This is not just doing the year-end performance review." Employers need to make sure that they communicate with their best employees about possibilities of promotion and leadership opportunities. Getting talented women is just part of the challenge. Keeping them is a whole other issue, Hanson says.
Give women the opportunity to network. This is not about creating a committee and giving women a task. For young women, networks provide a sense of being part of something important early on in their careers. But employers can use networks to give experienced women leadership positions. It can be a venue for senior women to meet other women outside of their divisions and become role models for one another. "It’s about recognition," Hanson says.
CEOs shouldn’t micromanage a company initiative to create a culture that recruits and retains women. "This has to be organic and has to come from the women," Hanson says. The best firms, like Lehman Bros., have allowed this to happen.
Do what’s right for your culture. Companies can’t just look at other firms’ initiatives and adopt them, Hanson says. They have to figure out what will work best for their corporate culture. "Figure out what’s right for you."
Understand the business imperative. "Recruiting and retaining women is not longer an HR initiative," Hanson says. "Big firms are short on talent, and if they don’t find ways to recruit and retain women, they will be at a serious disadvantage." Companies need to be able to look two to five years down the line and understand the implications of not doing anything.