Despite the gender dividend companies still struggle with female talent

There’s been a huge push to increase the female talent pipeline in companies, across the board and in the boardroom. It’s not working though. From recruitment to company branding, here are some basic ways to attract and retain women on your team.

female talent

The calls for gender balance have been going on for years, yet organisations still struggle to source, attract and retain top female talent. Changes in the basic nature of our workplaces accompanied by demographic shifts of declining and aging populations, it’s clear that recruitment practises need to be re-assessed or even completely revamped to attract and retain female talent. The days of dipping into the “old boys” network to produce candidates just like themselves should be long gone. Yet they linger. With strong business cases for gender balance highlighted by leading global organisations and large companies publicly taking the initiative at CEO level, there is still much work to done and changes to be made.

Research from Deloitte suggests that the demographic to involve more pro-actively is at middle management level. With organisations still sourcing and  interviewing candidates in traditional ways, affinity and confirmation bias play a key role in selection choices. There is no doubt that despite the wide publicised gender dividend the female talent pipeline has at best a stress fracture and in some parts a massive leak. It needs a serious fix.

5 ways companies can attract female talent

1. Improve your employer brand

The number of surveys reporting widespread sexism, discrimination and toxic corporate cultures is on the increase. Social proofing sites publish shared information on the way women are treated in a range of organisations.  Sexist corporate cultures are also being increasingly exposed in specific companies by individual whistleblowers.  Susan Fowler highlighted the toxic culture at Uber which finally resulted in the firing of the CEO Travis Kalanick. Remember, women talk to each other. A lot.

Read: Your gender balanced recruitment checklist

2. Provide role models

As women become increasingly savvy about unconscious bias in the female talent pipeline they look more frequently for concrete results of women succeeding in any company they want to join. 61% suggest that this is important to them. They will scrutinise leadership teams and look for evidence of female role models as well as strong initiatives from male leaders. It’s really important that the men in your organisation have been well-trained to support diversity and inclusion and do so openly.

Read: The importance of male Middle Managers in gender balance

3. Implement Inclusive Recruitment processes

The bias which women experience in the recruitment process features regularly on social media.  20% of women report an experience of discrimination in the recruitment process. Illegal questions are still rife and come from men and women interviewers equally. It’s important to ensure that your interview processes are as diverse and inclusive as possible:

  • Create gender neutral adverts and job profiles
  • Give your hiring team unconscious bias training
  • Have diverse panels
  • Use structured interviews
  • Create a bias aware culture

Read: How to attract talented women to your organisation

 4. Offer strong career opportunities

The notion that women lack ambition has been debunked over and over again. They are ambitious. What frustrates them is the lack of opportunities in male coded cultures. This is the most frequently cited reason that women leave their jobs. Today’s professional women expect more from their careers than previous generations. Higher percentages are choosing not to marry and have children. Companies with established formal career progression plans will have greater success in strengthening their female talent pipeline.

Read: Why women leave. It’s not complicated

5. Create Returner programmes

Linear career paths have always been an issue for women who opt to take parenting gaps. Offering returner and up-skilling programmes as well as mentoring options for women (and men) who take time out for family reasons are a good way of staying in touch with corporate alumni. This increases the reach for sourcing potential candidates to create a deeper and wider talent pool to strengthen the female talent pipeline.

But until the old school ways of bringing diversity into the talent pipeline remain unchanged, so will the statistics. Many companies and even recruitment agencies have no idea how go about it.

Want to change the way our organisation hires and retains women? Contact 3Plus now!

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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