Bridie Gallagher is Managing Director at the digital marketing agency Glass Digital. Here, she shares her top tips for business owners who are struggling to recruit women for their senior roles.
Women in business are a force to be reckoned with. Studies have shown that companies with a large proportion of women in senior roles are typically the most successful (McKinsey & Company), and companies founded by women are much more likely to survive (KSA Group Limited).
Yet, we still have a way to go when it comes to attracting women to apply for companies’ leading positions.
The good news is that things are improving: for example, on International Women’s Day 2018, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that 75 per cent of UK businesses had women in senior positions, which was up from 59 per cent in the previous year. But that still leaves room from improvement, so it’s vital that we’re all taking more steps to encourage women to apply for our more senior job vacancies. And, I’m going to share my top tips for doing that here.
Try to include more than one woman in your shortlists
Some corporations have already decided to ban all-male shortlists in an effort to promote gender equality within their businesses. But government advice claims that this just isn’t enough — for any headway to be made, shortlists need to have more than one woman on them.
This is because, if only one in a group of four candidates is a woman, this gives the impression that a man is going to be more suited to the job. And, this leaves the female candidate with little to no chance of progressing to the next stage (The Behavioural Insights Team). While getting rid of all-male shortlists is certainly a step in the right direction, it doesn’t necessarily improve a woman’s chance of securing a senior position, so more needs to be done.
Ensure your job ads are female-friendly
It might not be intentional, but there’s a chance your job ads could be deterring women from applying to fill your senior roles. So, I would recommend reviewing everything from the imagery to the language you use.
For example, if you typically promote your vacancies using images of businessmen but no women, this can send the message that your company is a bit of a boys’ club. It can also make it difficult for women to imagine themselves in the job you’re looking to fill — representation is everything, so it’s a good idea to make your job ad imagery more diverse.
When listing the skills you need applicants to have, it’s also a good idea to focus on the core competencies. According to an internal report from Hewlett Packard, men will often apply for a job when they meet 60 per cent of the requirements, while women will typically only throw their hat into the ring if they feel that they’re 100 per. cent qualified. So, you can help to level the playing field by giving potential applicants fewer requirements to tick off the list. It’s all about finding the perfect balance between giving potential applicants enough information about the job, but not listing so many requirements that even well-suited women will think the role is above them.
Recruit new staff using skill-based assessments
Experts recommend using skill-based assessments during the recruitment process, rather than simply relying on interviews. When asked about their abilities, women will often underestimate themselves, so giving them a task to complete will help to give you a more accurate idea of what they’re capable of.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have a standardised marking system that takes any unconscious bias out of the equation. And, you should use your applicants’ scores to choose the best candidate for the job. It’s also worth mentioning that a skill-based assessment will be involved when you’re advertising a vacancy, as this might ensure more women feel confident in applying.
Offer flexible working
Another way to attract more women to apply for your senior positions — and your company’s vacancies in general — is to offer flexible working arrangements. In a lot of families, women are still the primary caregivers, which means they’ll often have childcare responsibilities, or might even need time to look after elderly relatives. As a result, they might not be able to commit to the same rigorous work schedules as some of your male employees. So, when you’re looking to make your workforce more diverse, offering flexible working hours or giving your employees the option to work from home when they need to can be hugely beneficial.
Helping your staff to have a healthier work-life balance could make them more productive, too. A study from the Social Market Foundation has found that happy employees are an average of 12% more productive. So, flexible working policies won’t just help to increase your workforce’s diversity — it could help them to get more work done, too!
If you do allow your staff to work flexibly, make sure you shout about this in any job ads you put out. This is likely to encourage more women to apply to fill your vacancies, because it will help to show that they’ll be able to take on the role, alongside any other responsibilities they might already have.
Set internal targets to track your progress
If you’re truly looking to fill your company’s senior positions with more women, you’ll want to track your progress to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. So, I would always recommend making clear and measurable goals that you’ll be able to tick off along the way.
It’s also a good idea to decide when you would like to achieve certain goals by, as you’ll want to address the gender imbalance within your business sooner rather than later. And, if you have time-sensitive targets in place, you’ll be far more likely to attack the challenge head-on.
Many companies have a gender imbalance in their workforces — and this is especially prevalent the higher up the ranks you go. But, by taking these tips on board, you should find it much easier to recruit women to fill your business’s more senior positions.