Chris Stappard, Managing Director of Edward Reed Recruitment, shares his advice for businesses that want to fill more of their senior roles with women.
Did you know that the number of women in the UK that are in senior positions was up by 59% last year (Economia)?
This is great news, but while opportunities for women in the workforce have come a long way in recent years, there's still a lot we could be doing to support female careers — particularly when it comes to senior roles. Because although 59% is a big improvement, the UK is still 24% behind the global average.
There's a lot of reasons why we should be encouraging women into our senior positions, besides the fact that it's the right thing to do.
They're naturally talented at managing and motivating others and they have the skills necessary to facilitate communication between clients, staff, and management. In fact, female-owned businesses contribute a staggering £105 billion to the UK economy (FSB), so they're obviously effective leaders.
If you have a senior position that needs filling, here are some of the best ways you can attract women to apply for it.
Create an inclusive culture
It can help attract female candidates if you post about your office culture on social media: that way, they can visualise themselves at your company and start to think about where they'd fit in, making them more likely to apply. If you do plan on using this approach, make sure women are just as visible as men in your posts to show that everyone is welcome.
It's a good idea to start developing a more inclusive culture in your workplace as soon as possible if you think it's necessary, so that you are hiring women into an environment where they can thrive.
Most importantly, make sure the achievements of the women that already work for you are being recognised and, if they are usually overlooked for promotion, take steps to rectify that.
Other things to consider include getting rid of discriminatory dress codes, implementing a zero-tolerance policy on harassment, and clamping down on any derogatory language you suspect may be being used on the premises.
All staff, including managers, should be professional, respectful, and personable people to work with. Think about what social events you organise, too. Are they planned with everyone in mind, or could they be considered activities that make women feel excluded?
Write accurate job adverts
Unlike men, women don't apply for jobs unless they feel they are 100% qualified (HBR). If your job posting includes a duty that they don't know how to perform or feel like they won't be any good at, you could be inadvertently putting them off even if it's only a small part of the role.
Avoid discouraging women from applying by only including the essential duties in the job advert and not every little task they could ever be asked to perform. Senior roles do tend to involve a lot of off-the-cuff labour but try to just mention that they will have "ad hoc duties" rather than listing them all.
At the interview stage, women can find it more difficult than men to talk about their experiences and achievements in a way that can impact their chances of getting hired.
So, encourage applicants to bring in portfolios or ask skills-based questions to determine exactly what they're capable of. That way, you can be sure you're hiring someone who can do the job well rather than bluff their way through an interview.
It's also important that you aim to include some women on the interview panel; either women in senior roles, female recruitment staff, or members of the HR department. It can help applicants feel more at ease, but they can also bring some valuable insight into the company that male interviewers might not be able provide.
Offer a competitive salary
The gender pay gap is still a hot topic when it comes to equality, so it's encouraging to see that changes are actually being made and the gap is narrowing (Digital Trends). However, men still get paid more than women in almost every country.
So, it's important we're still mindful of paying equal amounts for the same quantity of work being done to help close the gap for good.
One way that a lot of companies can accidentally pay women less is by basing their wage off their previous salary. If their former employer has paid them less than a man for the same role, you will end up doing so too. So, it's best to avoid basing their salary off their previous role if you can.
You should also discourage salary secrecy amongst employees — that way, everyone knows what they're receiving and why, and mistakes can get rectified quickly. Plus, transparency when it comes to equal pay can be good for PR.
Include realistic benefits
The mistake that a lot of companies make is offering perks that their employees either can't use or don't want, such as free gym memberships or beauty treatments that they don't have time for.
Flexibility is a top criteria for 70% of millennials when it comes to job hunting, often more than a pay increase (Talint International), but women usually need it the most if they have families or other commitments.
So, follow in the footsteps of other inclusive businesses and offer flexible working options instead of freebies to attract more applications from women. These can include part time positions, flexible starting and finishing times, or working from home.
That way, everyone can put 100% into their work and their other commitments without sacrificing either, and you'll benefit from improved productivity from your workforce.
These are just some of the ways that you can encourage more women to apply for senior roles within your company, providing equal opportunities and inspiring other companies to do the same.
How To Attract More Women To Your Senior Positions