International Women’s Day is about redressing the gender balance across the globe. Put simply, if women make up 50% of the population then they should also have 50% of the opportunity to succeed and excel in all aspects of their lives. As recruiters, we have an important role to play in ensuring measures are in place that support or advocate proactive programs aimed at attracting and retaining women in the workplace.
Currently (and not surprisingly) women make up around 49% of the paid workforce globally. However, only 17% of board directors are women (Capita, 2018). In addition, the pay gap varies greatly between countries and industries. In the regions Apis Alvi operates, women earn between 60% and 70% of their male counterparts. While the gap will be less pronounced within most of the professional industries, the fact that it exists at all is why Initiatives such as IWD are so important. (WEF, 2018)
Clearly, there are many facets to addressing gender balance in business, starting at a grassroots level in the education system, right up to empowering women to reach the giddy heights of company CEO. These initiatives are a step in the right direction, however, in reality, the career journey of many women is often thwart with barriers, some less obvious than others. To avoid this, there are a number of steps clients and recruiters can take collaboratively during the hiring process for any role at any level to ensure women are adequately represented firstly in the candidate short list, and secondly in hiring and onboarding.
Understand and communicate diversity policies.
Most firms will have a diversity policy, and hiring managers and recruiters need to be aware of it. Diversity policies are there to ensure that the net is cast sufficiently wide during a candidate search, that it creates a talent pool of professionals from wide and varied backgrounds that are representative of the population at large. Clear guidance on the employer’s expectations needs to be communicated at the beginning of a search, but the reality is, any credible recruiter will also look to present candidates that come from a cross-section of backgrounds and who are both men and women.
The language of job descriptions and advertising.
Research has shown that seemingly innocuous words and phrases can be seen as masculine, and as a result in the context of job advertisements can deter women from applying for roles (APA, 2011). Using gender neutral phrases and terminology will stop perpetuating gender biases that exist in the hiring process and will encourage a broader response, which can in fact increase the likelihood of reaching more people. The US online job board Zip Recruiter reported that ads with certain gender-specific words removed, both feminine and masculine, received a 42% increase in applications.
Promote family policies early on.
Introducing and discussing family policies is not just relevant to women in the hiring process, but it is also a positive factor that attracts all potential employees. Family-friendly policies such as flexible working, parental leave, carer leave or support to take a loved one or a parent to a medical appointment, for example, all promote an environment that is inclusive to every worker. This latter point is important in achieving balance, as family policies that add value to everyone’s lives generally do not exclude women. We have seen some of our clients actively striving towards enabling women to reach senior positions, one global banking client offers on-site kindergartens and dedicated breast-feeding rooms for example.
Have women on the interview panel.
Having women on an interview panel is one of the best ways to get the best out of female candidates. It provides them with access to existing successful women workers within the organisation and affords the opportunity to ask candid questions about their experiences. Perhaps more importantly, it negates any subconscious bias, casting the net wider and giving greater weight to a wider range of skills and attributes that individuals could bring to a role. A substantial number of the world’s largest companies have mandated the relevant and thoughtful inclusion of diverse interview panels, with many more realising the value even without formal frameworks in place.
Incentivise your hiring teams.
Having policies in place and talking about achieving balance is only the first step towards building truly diverse teams. There are several ways to motivate hiring managers to actually implement policies from setting company-wide gender balance goals, right down to linking bonuses and incentives to delivering against these goals. A number of our financial services clients have checks in place to help steer recruitment towards delivering policies, but very few have robust measures that actually enforce programs.