We recently delivered (pre COVID-19) a very successful Diversity and Inclusion workshop to one of our UK clients, giving them the tools they need to better understand D&I, the importance there of and how identifying unconscious biases could help them better serve their clients. With exceptionally talented women clearly making up a significant proportion of the talent pool, organisations need to think strategically about how they will access this demographic to their competitive advantage.
Diversity and Inclusion programs can be very hard to measure in organisations. These programs are designed to include more people from minority groups, by recruiting diverse individuals will allow for different perspective and innovative ideas to add to the overall productivity and profitability of the organisation. However how do you measure these effectively?
One of the areas we focus on is gender diversity since we are a women’s community that supports women in their careers through mentoring programs and online masterclasses. We speak to women day in day out and recently surveyed the women we have in our community to find out what the deep rooted issues are when developing their careers or applying for positions within organisations. After which we came up with 5 key areas that companies should focus on to make their company more attractive to the female workforce.
1. Don’t ask for too much on the job description
A very long and descriptive job description which possesses a long list of criteria in which a person must fulfil in order to qualify for a role can be very off putting for women, which in turn may prevent them from applying for a job in which they may be very suitably qualified for.
Research shows that men often overestimate their ability for job roles and women generally underestimate their abilities – this is often referred to as the “confidence gap”. If a man sees a role that he feels he is 60% qualified for, then he will apply for it, however a woman will only apply for a role if she feels she hits 90-100% of the criteria on the job description, and are therefore screening themselves out of the selection process.
Therefore it’s important to review the job description for requirements that may not necessarily be fundamental to the success of the position alongside being aware of the language used in the job description. By unknowingly putting in references to gender you may be alienating a large demographic of great candidates, therefore check that your job descriptions don’t include gender charged words such as “rockstar’ or “ninja” or even some of the seemingly innocent sounding words like “confident” or “determined” can really discourage female applicants from applying. This can also have a knock on effect to the perception of your organisation’s culture, with many citing a “bro” or “macho” culture may be prevalent in such an organisation.
2. Demonstrate that your company is committed to Diversity and Inclusion
Ensure that your company culture and employer branding encompasses policies related to your commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. If this is visible from your website, corporate communications, LinkedIn company pages and from the senior management team, this will likely attract more female applicants to your organisation.
Share stories of women who are doing well in your organisation and highlight your inclusion policies. It’s all well and good being able to attract diverse talent however if they’re not feeling included or supported then that effort is fruitless and will damage your reputation in the long term. A study undertaken by PwC stated that when considering a potential employer 61% of women look at the diversity of the leadership team, 67% on whether they have positive role models similar to them and 56% on whether the organisation publicly shares its progress on diversity
3. Search outside of your normal parameters
At Eva Connections it’s our mission to change the way organisations think about how they attract and retain key female talent. Most companies are all “fishing from the same pond” and don’t employ diverse tactics in order to reach a diverse spread of candidates. We help women who are looking for a new job, returning back to the work environment or who are looking for a complete change of direction. All of these women are highly adaptable, have specific hard and soft skills, problem solving capabilities that can add innovative and creative thinking and are motivated to work in companies that value the diversity they bring to organisations.
Unfortunately many companies are closed to this method of attracting talent because they believe the only people that can add value are the ones who work directly within their industry, hence the reason why they are struggling to identify and secure top talent. My favourite saying, which I quote often is “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results”
4. Train your managers on gender stereotypes and unconscious bias in the hiring process
It’s clear that the level playing field is not equal when it comes to hiring women. There is a huge impact on gender stereotypes and assumptions in the recruiting process. We recently worked with an organisation who were looking for a Head of Project Management. They specifically wanted a woman in the role since the management team was made up of men. However this didn’t stop their underlying questions around whether our (female) candidate was planning to start a family, she was just recently married and therefore assumed that she would be starting a family soon. Clearly indicating they had concerns over costs of maternity leave and absence during this period.
In action to this there are a number of unconscious biases that influence behaviour during the interview process such as the similar to me bias where we tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to us. We tend to enjoy working with people who are like us and we will therefore prefer that candidate over someone else who has very similar skills and experience but may not necessarily be “like us”. Companies often prefer candidates who have gone to a specific school or University, for example, Silicon Valley companies often prefer people who have gone to UC Berkeley and we all know the problems tech companies have with diversity.
And let’s not forget Gender Bias. At the office an assertive woman might be perceived as bossy, however an assertive male will be perceived as confident, we are all guilty of this, men and women alike, it’s not just a male problem. Try to make your interview panel as diverse as possible throughout the interview process and consider using ‘blind’ applications where all data is removed that indicates gender, age, ethnicity and education details from the CV.
5. Provide a structured mentoring programme
Mentoring programs have come a long way since the old fashioned method of meeting someone for a coffee and off you go to figure it out between you. This informal method often fails because the Mentor and Mentee have not been properly trained and don’t know what each other’s expectations are, so the relationship starts off with the best intentions, however due to the lack of structure it often fizzles out and loses it’s potential.
The best mentoring relationships are ones that are structured and training and support is provided in order to facilitate a successful outcome. Over 70% of the women we surveyed cited mentoring and community as key to their success and confidence in developing their careers. Mentoring has myriad benefits, it helps to attract great talent whilst increasing engagement and retention. Employees who receive mentoring are promoted 5 times more often than those that do not. Having a structured mentoring program helps significantly with employee branding making females feel more included and supported throughout their career journey.
Ultimately companies need to move away from the old and outdated way of thinking. That there is a lack of sufficient skills in candidate pools, or that their industry sector is not attractive to women, and take a more broader view of the talent pools and networks that they can tap into. There are more and more companies who are supporting organisations around diversity and inclusion initiatives. The question most companies need to ask themselves is what will it cost your organisation if you get your talent pipeline wrong?
Eva Connections is a community and network for career women in STEM who are either looking for a new job, returning back to the work environment or wanting a complete change. We support women in their careers and organisations in their recruitment and retention strategies which includes the Mentoring platform. To learn more contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.evaconnections.com