Women in Retail Leadership Circle and its sister brand, Total Retail, recently hosted a webinar, Leadership Strategies for a New Retail Age, featuring female leaders sharing their thoughts on several retail and leadership questions, including why women are exiting the workforce and what can be done to stop them from leaving.

Lea Green, creator and host of the Stairway to CEO podcast, asked the panelists how they have retained women employees or attracted new women on their staff, despite the mass exodus of women in the workforce. 

“I think the first thing to look at is what is causing it,” said Arveena Ahluwalia, COO of Evelyn & Bobbie, a seller of women’s intimate apparel. “One of the reasons is caregiving, right? Whether it’s family obligations, whether it’s to take care of the children, or what have you.”

Ahluwalia mentioned “returnship” programs, which encourage those with gaps in their resumes to apply. Many companies reject resumes with large gaps in employment history, which makes many women who took a break from working to care for their children anxious to get back into the workforce.

“These are really talented women,” noted Ahluwalia. “They have really rich work experience, their skills need to be short, fine-tuned, honed. You give them like two [months] to three months of training, mentorship, coaching, to fine-tune their skills, and they could really add value to the organization.”

Nina Mullen, co-founder and co-CEO of Hilma, a retailer of natural vitamins and supplements, discussed the importance of parental leave. 

“Women are expected to do more of the caregiving in the household than men,” Mullen said. “And that starts with parental leave.” 

A new mother herself, Mullen has personal experience with the disparity between men’s and women’s parental leave. After taking a month off, she had the opportunity to stay home longer than her husband, who was back at work by week five. She felt as if she assumed the caregiver role within their household.

“Until there’s equitable and reasonable parental leave for both men and women, it’s going to be really, really challenging for women to not always be expected to be the primary caregiver in their homes,” Mullen said. 

She closed by noting parental leave policies in Nordic countries as an example of how companies in the United States should be implementing reasonable parental leave.

Chelsea Moore, founder and CEO of BOXFOX, a personalized and custom gift box subscription service, said large companies should be applying pressure to government officials to create better parental leave policies.

“It’s something that I’ve felt really passionate about for the last few years, setting up and in my own exploration of setting up the policies and making sure people’s pay is covered,” said Moore. 

Moore echoed Mullen’s admiration of Nordic countries setting a bar high for parental leave. 

“[When] we look to the Scandinavian countries and what they’re covering,” Moore noted. “I think we really need to take a hard look at ourselves in this. I will echo that the caregiving shift is huge and more men should be encouraged to take their full parental leave when it’s offered because it’s those small steps that I think will shift the priorities of different companies and how they plan for this.”

Access the full webinar, Leadership Strategies for a New Retail Age, for free on-demand here.