Resourcing Insight Blog

22 May RTT – Gender Diversity: Overcoming the Obstacles of Attracting and Recruiting Women into Male Dominated Industries

Gender diversity

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Thursday 9th July 2015 hosted by Verizon’s Anthony Lasocki (Head of Talent Acquisition, EMEA) titled ‘Gender Diversity: Overcoming the Obstacles of Attracting and Recruiting Women into Male Dominated Industries’.

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Resourcing professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.

Most companies who operate within a typically male-dominated industry already recognise the importance of attracting more women into their businesses; particularly into senior-leadership positions. Thankfully we now seem to have moved past ‘establishing the business case’ and are now at a point where we can start to implement practical solutions to overcome this challenge. Research actually shows that 90% of businesses have diversity agendas in place, however increasing hiring pressures often causes diversity hiring initiatives to take a back seat, amongst many other challenges that exist.

Identifying the obstacles

When it comes to attracting and recruiting females into typically male dominated industries, many businesses share the same frustrations and challenges that seem to prevent objectives from being hit, for instance:

  • The employee value proposition (EVP) being communicated at hiring stages doesn’t reflect the internal reality of being an employed female
  • Unconscious bias is preventing recruiters and hiring managers from making objective decisions
  • Organisations’ benefits packages don’t marry-up with appealing to targeted talent
  • Female candidates and existing members of staff feel out of their comfort zones
  • The brand or products being marketed are particularly male-orientated so potentially aren’t of as greater appeal to certain demographics
  • Learning and development initiatives might not be tailored to progressing a female employee through the business
  • Female employees aren’t being utilised to promote their stories, or perhaps there’s a lack of stories to tell

Best practice

So what practical steps can businesses take to overcome some of these obstacles?

Develop your people
Educating your biggest influencers around the impact of unconscious bias is absolutely something that needs to happen first. Even the subtlest instances of unconscious bias will ultimately end up affecting the bigger picture. Further attention must also be given to training hiring managers on the importance of making diverse hires, explaining why this talent is typically not sourced at the ‘drop of a hat’ and ensuring they understand that providing maximum lead time on recruitment is vital.

Inclusive culture
Developing an inclusive culture absolutely helps bread the right behaviours and promotes a good environment for females to be employed. Running Women’s Associations (that are inclusive for all genders) and offering ‘Return to Work Schemes’ will go along way to demonstrating inclusion to employees.

Outreach
Addressing gender balance within certain industries isn’t something that can simply be tackled internally within a business. For a true impact to be made it needs to be promoted at a macro-environmental level. Working with young females who are still in school is a good way to enlighten them around your business’ industry and potential opportunities for their future careers.

Timing
For any diversity initiative to work the business needs to be fully on-board and the culture needs to be right to accommodate a diverse workforce; the acquisition of diverse talent comes second. Furthermore, the business needs to be prepared to share their workforce plans with recruitment at much earlier stages (circa 3 years in advance) to allow sufficient time for diverse talent to be developed or identified.

Employer branding and messaging
Messaging and communication is vital when it comes to delivering a diversity initiative successfully. One thing in particular is to be very mindful not to make diverse talent feel used to hit target numbers; the focus should always be on hiring the right person for the job whilst making the process as inclusive for all as possible. It’s also suggested that we move away from using the word ‘initiative’ as it sounds like a project, not an on-going journey.

The power of storytelling should also not be underestimated. Find compelling examples of successful females in your business and work with them to tell their stories to help promote your business as a great employer for women. Furthermore, work with your female employees to develop an enhanced benefits package (accessible regardless of gender) tailored to countering some of the misconceptions that prospective employees might have about joining your business.

The supply chain
If you’re a business that’s heavily reliant on acquiring talent through agencies then it’s imperative that they understand and are on-board with your diversity objectives. They also need to be able to evidence what they are doing to help ensure that the shortlists they supply reflect a diverse cross-section of the population and that their recruitment processes are accessible and inclusive. However, don’t forget the role you need to play as an employer. What collateral or information is being shared with your suppliers to help them promote your business as a fantastic employer for women? Give your recruitment agencies the tools they need to succeed.

Flexible working
Offering a degree of flexible working is a great way to help attract top talent to your business, a large proportion of candidates would be put off joining a company that didn’t offer any flexibility. Whether that be the opportunity to work from home, work preferential hours or discuss the possibility of job shares or part-time hours – flexible working can come in all shapes and sizes. What often prevents these types of initiatives from being a success is overly ambiguous (or hidden) policies, sceptical managers and a lack of buy-in / adoption from senior managers. These things all need to be looked at. Interestingly, despite many businesses offering flexible working, only 6.2% of organisations will actually state that it’s on offer in their job adverts! This could be a great way of attracting more diverse applicants by being more upfront about what’s on offer.

Talent acquisition channels
When looking to hire a more diverse range of employees, make sure you’re thinking about the types of places they ‘hang out’. For instance, if you need to increase the number of females employees, using channels like ‘mumsnet’ to promote vacancies or your business as an employer, could be a really lucrative way of reaching your hiring objectives.

Key conclusions:

  • Measure the percentage of diverse hires from specific recruitment channels and invest more in utilising the most effective methods of acquiring talent
  • Ensure that any diversity initiative isn’t being run as an isolated ‘programme’; it needs to embedded into the business’ wider strategy
  • Always keep the focus on employing the best person for the job, but ensure that your recruitment activity is as inclusive as possible to open up opportunities to more diverse talent pools.

To find out more about the Think Tank RTT – Gender Diversity: Overcoming the Obstacles of Attracting and Recruiting Women into Male Dominated Industries:

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