Women in microfinance and employment mobility: is it always a good thing?

July 17, 2013

SEWA Bank Teller 2007Marketplace Morning Report ran a story this morning (“Women stay in jobs longer than they should”) on women’s tenure in companies and the potential negative effect it can have on their career and salary growth.  Women tend to be more loyal and less likely to leave an organization than men.  This makes them attractive employees for the institution, but it also risks holding women back from making advantageous career moves to other companies.

Is the answer to inspire women to be as mobile as their male counterparts?  Not always.  Women in some labor markets around the world face limited employment options, either because of socio-cultural norms, discrimination or because of the realities of their double burden of managing their households as well as their jobs.Microfinance institutions around the world witness the same phenomenon: on average, voluntary attrition rates for women tend to be lower than for their male colleagues.  In Women’s World Banking’s research on gender diversity issues in microfinance, oftentimes women’s tenure with an organization reflects not only loyalty but also an aversion to the professional risk inherent in moving to another organization.

Women’s World Banking works with women in financial inclusion around the world to help them identify and enact their leadership visions.  This means identifying the opportunities around you, whether those opportunities lie at the next level of your organization or at the company across town.  It means being intentional about your professional growth, embracing your ambition and demonstrating it to your boss, your team and your organization.

Loyalty can be leveraged as a powerful tool for women.  There is a risk that employers will take loyal employees for granted, slowing their rate of advancement.  If women are loyal for right reasons – the company values their contribution and provides a fulfilling and rewarding environment – then women would do well to stay and fight for more.