By Zandra Moore, CEO of Panintelligence
There’s a huge amount of female talent out there and if a business isn’t taking steps to address diversity issues in the workplace, including making its recruitment process more female friendly, then of course that business will be missing different perspectives and the potential that gender diversity unlocks.
Businesses that walk the walk when it comes to gender diversity are likely to reap the benefits, and typically see a wider variety of insights and ideas brought to the table from their teams, in turn facilitating better problem-solving, meaning happy stakeholders and clients. Gender-diverse teams also continue to attract and retain talented women, often driving businesses ahead of the curve.
Research suggests that women will read a job description and bypass a role because they think they need to be 100 per cent qualified for it, whereas men see that they can deliver on 60 per cent of the requirements and will apply. We all suffer with self-doubt, and women in particular can be plagued by imposter syndrome – we often convince ourselves someone else is doing or can do it better. Even if you don’t have the necessary qualifications, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do the job well. Fundamentally, other people – your peers – will not be qualifying themselves out of the process if they don’t fully fit the criteria for a role, so you shouldn’t either.
Recruiters and interviewers should also ensure the language they use in job ads is not off putting – research has found that gender preferences can be conveyed subtly by using terms such as “competitive,” or “leader”, often associated with male stereotypes, while words like “support” and “interpersonal” are associated with female stereotypes.
Unfortunately, there is an ongoing perception in some arenas that, even if equally qualified, a man would be able to perform tasks ‘better’ than his female counterpart. Discrimination in this way is obviously not conducive to an inclusive, diverse workplace, and will ultimately handicap the business in question.
I was very lucky to have my mum as a role model – a hero even – to give me the confidence to choose what I wanted to do with my career and the confidence to go and do it.
Throughout her successful career, developed whilst she brought up myself and my sister, my mum never gave up and never compromised on her values. When she was passed over for promotions or paid less than her peers she moved on and found somewhere else that valued her.
Believing you deserve to be valued for the skills and expertise you bring is crucial to progression, and a really good way to build belief is to go out and find your people; build your circle of influence; surround yourself with trusted advisers to reduce the subconscious bias you have that tells you ‘can’t’ or ‘aren’t’.
Finding a peer group of women in senior leadership positions in IT was difficult for me – only four per cent of tech companies have female founders. Throughout my career, I have found myself searching for people like me – for a peer group – but it didn’t seem to exist, so two years ago I set up LeanIn Leeds, which now has over 330 members and is growing quickly. I met my HR advisors, recruiters, web design agency, solicitors, training providers, and executive coach through my networks. I don’t qualify for the Young Directors Network I set-up, but I am still working with and benefitting from what I gave to it 12 years ago.
I’ve had my own children now, and I see the difficulties women have in returning to work after periods of absence. For women to realise their potential, fundamental change is also needed in workplace attitudes to find reasonable and sensible ways to keep them involved with, and help them back into, the workplace, to build a culture of flexibility and to empower them. There’s some way to go here, but building your own networks will help.
It’s easy to underestimate our own capabilities, harder to step into the unknown. Only when we try to do new things will we know what we are capable of. I say take a risk, life begins at the edge of our comfort zones.