Corporate Australia is talking more and more about the gender mix in the workplace and increasingly discussing how we can achieve 50:50 gender parity. Given Australia has dropped back 26 places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, behind countries such as Bulgaria, Mexico and the Philippines, it doesn’t give the average woman much faith that it is actually possible!
When recruiting for senior professionals (or any professionals for that matter), more often than not, we are asked to provide 50:50 shortlists. This causes us an immediate problem. Finding, assessing and moving females is at least 30% harder than their male counterparts. What do we do? Ignore the guidance and send ‘the most available, easiest to find, obvious talent in the market’? If we take this approach, this tends to look like 70:30 male female split.
No, we ABSOLUTELY DO NOT!
This would be lazy, easy and frankly not the best for our clients or their customers. Unless of course that businesses customers are 70% male? And do males make up 70% of the household purchasing/buying decisions? I think not.
At a basic level, Human Resources, Recruiters and Talent Acquisition teams are not promoting women enough for the roles they are hiring for, regardless of the area or level. It’s nothing personal or sinister, we just do not have the time (or some of us, the inclination) to dig deeper and work harder to find the suitable women and speak to them in the way they require.
My industry must start approaching this differently and with the tenacity and thoughtfulness it deserves. No longer can the gender mix for recruitment be a ‘guide’. It has to be mandated, recorded and have appropriate consequences in place when it is not followed. As recruiters and hiring managers, we can impact this much more than we may think. Making effort to locate females, understand their needs and what’s important to them, respect their boundaries and promote them at the right time is critical for this. Talking to them through the same channels, using the same tone and speed as their male counterparts simply will not yield positive results.
Ask yourself, why would a female make life even harder for themselves and openly look for a new job unless something was wrong or broken? Most of the women I know with families are just trying to do their best day to day. Why would they opt for a harder life by interviewing for a new role or agreeing to be placed on a shortlist which will take more work and focus?
If Hiring Managers, Human Resources, Recruiters and Talent Acquisition teams really want a true representation of the market’s top talent, we MUST approach female candidates differently. So how do we do that?
Rewrite adverts using inclusive and softer language;
Have less ‘requirements’ for the role knowing that females will only apply if they meet 80%-100% of them;
Ensure 50:50 gender mix on interview panels;
Offer informal interviews/meetings;
Ask them their timeframes (rather than forcing ours onto them);
Listen to what their ‘real’ motivators are;
Understand the support they need – this is often trivial and small to a business but HUGE to them!
Court them and understand when the time is right for them;
Understand their career goals and aspirations and position the right types of opportunities, not just the ones we have an immediate need for.
Victoria Butt is a wife, mother, founder of 3 businesses, head hunter, wine lover, feminist and passionate advocate for inclusive leadership. She runs Diversity & Inclusion for Entrepreneurs Organisation and loves debating the evolution of the role that women play in Corporate Australia.