The gender turnover

The gender turnover

5 minute read

Professor Israr Quereshi
​​Professor Israr Qureshi

High employee turnover is not only a costly phenomenon, but also an ominous sign for underperforming organisations. 

New research from the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) appears to have found a solution for these struggling companies – hire more women and do it quickly.

In a recently published study, CBE’s Professor Israr Qureshi and Ivey Business School at Western University’s Assistant Professor Cara Maurer examine this phenomenon. They show how a substantial and rapid increase in the representation of women within a firm will lead to a significant decrease in collective employee staff rotation and an increase in job embeddedness – the collection of factors within an organisation that influence employee retention.

“High employee turnover is a costly phenomenon that can be a signal of an unhealthy, underperforming organisation. Our work indicates that a higher representation of women leads to an increased level of relationship building within an organisation, which in turn generates a higher level of job embeddedness for both women and men,” explains Israr, who is a researcher at CBE’s Research School of Management. 

Although companies appear to be strategically hiring more women, data suggests that they have struggled to increase the representation of women in their workforce. For instance, figures from Statistics Canada, the nation’s federal agency responsible for statistical collection and analysis, show a slower growth rate in women’s appointments in the labour force between 1990 and 2018 in comparison to between 1953 and 1990.

“Despite setting public goals to hire more women, many leading organisations are still struggling to meet these benchmarks. I think this is because they are still short-term profit or revenue focussed, and assume that men, being traditionally more competitive, can help them perform better. Thus, ignoring the long-term benefits that a gender-balanced workforce can bring to the organisation,” Israr argues.

Examining data from 499 organisations over a 14-year time span commencing in 1997, Cara and Israr’s work reveals the importance of a rapid and substantive change in the representation of women, as opposed to a slow and incremental one, and the consequential positive effects on a company’s social dynamics.

Their research indicates that women-led collegiality and "relational ties” play a pivotal role in lowering staff renewal rates.

“Our study shows that women make organisations less stressful by focusing on collegiality and cooperation rather than on competition, as they are driven by relational bonds rather than instrumental ties. The former is linked to reducing turnover in organisations, whereas the latter involves cooperation merely in order to achieve some limited and immediate goal,” Israr points out.

In addition to having a direct impact on human resource practices, he believes the study will help organisations understand how to pursue increases in the representation of women, particularly in the backdrop of the pandemic.

“Our findings were compiled before COVID-19 began. However, I think they are all the more relevant now, as many organisations have been facing the prospect of cutting their workforce. This study suggests that businesses would do well to retain women in their workforce,” Israr argues, further adding that the implications of the research extend to Australian companies given their similarity to the Canadian organisational context.

The College is always keen to explore research collaborations with the public and private sector and to reconnect with alumni. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about partnering with us.