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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Six questions to ask to get an edge when recruiting female staff into your organisation

Following on from our “Future of Work White Paper” which was recently released, we are exploring the benefits that come with having a diverse workforce. This article looks at part of the diversity goal in increasing female talent.

It is very important for Australia as we ranked 46th in the Global Gender Gap league table which measures (amongst other things) access to opportunities and resources between males and females (World Economic Forum – Global Gender Gap Report 2016) – the ranking impacted by inequality in pay between the genders.

Research regularly shows that a diverse workforce is not only more productive but also produces a higher level of customer service and profit. (See, for example, ‘Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup? A new recipe to improve business performance’ Deloitte May 2013).

And when it comes to attracting female talent into organisations and, particularly into senior roles, it seems that progress is strong.

For example:

  • 87% of CEOs across the Globe are focussed on diversity and inclusion

  • 78% of large organisations are actively trying to recruit more women

  • 80% of organisations say they have aligned their diversity and recruitment strategies and

  • 76% say they have incorporated diversity into their employer brand.

(Source: ‘Winning the fight for female talent’ PWC March 2017).

Indeed, big companies are lining up to tell the world about their commitment to diversity and inclusion:

‘Diversity and inclusion are a priority at Uber’ said Travis Kalanick CEO and ‘I know we have been too slow in publishing our numbers- and that the best way to demonstrate our commitment to change is through transparency. To make progress it’s important we measure what matters.’ (Business Insider: March 28 2017).

And consider Salesforce.

Salesforce examine the pay of their employees annually and make good any gender differences. Indeed, in 2017, they spent $3 million to make good unexplained pay differences. (See Salesforce Blog: ‘2017 Salesforce Equal Pay Assessment Update 4th April 2017).

But, it isn’t all good, as unfortunately the numbers tell a different story:

Percentage of females in leadership role:

  • Uber 22%

  • Facebook 27%

  • Apple 28%

  • Google 24%

  • Twitter 30%

  • Microsoft 18%.

(Source: Business Insider 28th March 2017)

More than one third of Uber’s Global workforce are women – but the percentages in technical or engineering positions are much lower (nearly 90% of technical directors and 85% of its engineering workforce are male). The good news is that Uber is setting aside $3 million to support organisations that bring more women and minorities into technical roles.

It seems that there has been a lot of effort to increase equality between females and males in the workplace but results are slow to come through. Indeed, the PWC research mentioned showed that females are underrepresented at every level of management in the organisations that took part.

More effort needed?

Facebook developed a campaign in 2015 to recruit more females and employees from minority backgrounds. However, Bloomberg reported that the initiative was frustrated by a multi-layered hiring process.

For example, in engineering, white males assessed candidates on traditional metrics like the college they attended and whether current employees could vouch for them. (‘Facebook’s hiring process hinders its efforts to create a diverse workforce’ Bloomberg 9 January 2017).

Why it matters

  • First, there is the values based case – this is about the inequality in society and the pressing social and moral issues that are created

  • Then there is the economic case - Mckinsey estimate that closing gender inequality can add $12 trillion to world economy by 2025 (Mckinsey Global Institute Research: ‘The Power of Parity. How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth’ September 2015)

  • Finally, there is the talent case – 77% of CEOs see talent availability as a key threat to their business. ‘Women clearly make up one of the most significant talent pools available to all organisations. With exceptionally talented women in the workforce, leaders are turning their efforts towards greater levels of female recruitment as one approach to plug these gaps, win the war for talent in today’s skills crunch, and gain competitive advantage.’ (‘Winning the fight for female talent’ PWC March 2017).

Six questions to ask to get an edge when recruiting female staff into your organisation

  1. Is it possible that the people who interview female candidates are showing unconscious bias? In the PWC research, 20% of female candidates said they had experienced gender discrimination during interviews. Consider if this is a topic you should include in interviewing training. Mckinsey produced an excellent training video for staff conducting interviews in their organisation (above)

  2. How do you ensure diversity of interview panels/interviewers throughout the interviewing process?

  3. How do you make sure your job postings and job descriptions give the right message when put through the diversity lens? Simple things like removing ‘selling experience’ from job postings can help if it is not a fundamental requirement for the role. SAP found that females will only apply for a role if they have all the qualifications stated in the job description whereas men will apply if they have 60% upwards (‘Why diversity and inclusion are crucial for the success of organisations today’ Podcast

  4. Does your employer brand reflect an inclusive working environment? For example, using videos on careers web sites and recruitment material showing the progress that female employees are making in the organisation. Also, highlighting these case studies when recruiting on social media? (See, for example, Royal Australian Air Force: – section ‘Our People – Women in the Air Force’).

  5. Have you considered publishing a target for the number of females in leadership positions and communicating this internally to staff and externally to recruitment partners? This can help focus attention and show senior level commitment.

  6. Have you assessed the viability of targeting staff returning to the workforce following a period of absence due to maternity or career breaks? There are several excellent case studies where organisations have been successful with this strategy. For example, Swiss Bank, UBS, who have developed an effective career returners programme (see Career Comeback section).

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