7 Tips for Recruiting Women

By Allison O'Kelly

March was Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the U.S. In recent decades, women have made tremendous strides in the realms of work and education. Despite these accomplishments, women still have a glass ceiling to break through, and a few changes to recruiting efforts can help tremendously.

Women’s labor force participation rate has increased steadily, since Rosie the Riveter first paved the way during the World War II era. Today, women account for 57 percent of the U.S. workforce. Women now earn the majority of associate (60 percent) and bachelor’s degrees (57 percent), as well as 37 percent of all MBAs, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

When it comes to the working world, women’s participation is important. “The New Business Imperative: Recruiting, Developing and Retaining Women in the Workplace,” a white paper from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, shows that companies with a higher percentage of women in top management positions have increased growth in stock prices and larger returns on equity.

Women dominate the workforce in sheer numbers, education and business performance. Still, just 22 companies in the Fortune 500 are run by women.

So why aren’t there more women in leadership roles? A number of factors impede women’s progress into executive positions.

There’s a lack of confidence among female leaders. Despite their true talent, female executives are prone to “impostor syndrome,” and may be hesitant to seize opportunities they fear they’re unqualified for.

Caring for children is still a role dominated by women. Although the number of stay-at-home dads has risen markedly in recent years (peaking at 2.2 million in 2010), caring for young children is still a traditionally female role. When a woman drops out of the workforce, it effectively derails her career. The loss of momentum can make it extremely difficult for her to get back on an upward trajectory.

Corporate America still isn’t ready. Without a doubt, our nation has made progress in terms of facilitating women’s leadership opportunities. But like it or not, organizational culture is still plagued with pervasive gender stereotypes and double standards that hold women back from rising through the ranks as quickly as their male counterparts.

Given the obstacles talented female executives still face, it’s little wonder their climb into the upper echelons of senior management is occurring at a glacial pace. Here’s how to attract more women to your leadership roles and hire who your organization needs:

  1. Assess your screening process. Scrutinize your current selection process to ensure women are not being disproportionately screened out at any stage. If you find this is the case, address the obstacles or bottlenecks that are deterring or unnecessarily eliminating talented females.
  2. Send the right message. Your employment brand has a tremendous effect on women’s application rates. Make sure that both the explicit and implicit messages your brand is sending are inclusive: We want and welcome women; women are leaders with upward career paths in our organization; women have executive opportunities in all areas of our company.
  3. Use your current female workers to recruit others. Women in leadership positions are beacons for other female talent, so shine that light. Make your female executives true recruiting ambassadors, who build your employment brand and broaden your referral network.
  4. Increase your work flexibility policies. For a number of reasons — including pregnancy, child rearing and caring for aging parents — women leaders desperately need flexibility. Remove the obstacles that impede their long-term retention and professional growth within your organization by offering telecommuting, job sharing and other forms of schedule flexibility. When you build a culture that supports the needs of female executives, more will be attracted to your opportunities.
  5. Showcase your brand and culture. Enlist your organization’s marketing, IT and recruiting teams to put your best foot forward with potential female applicants. Within your website’s recruitment pages, create a page just for women. On it, feature biographies, interviews and photos of your company’s successful female professionals and executives. Visitors will perceive your organization as one that welcomes, values and supports women leaders.
  6. Close pay gaps. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics research, women working full-time in the U.S. typically are paid just 79 percent of what men are paid. Audit pay by gender to ensure you’re paying both sexes equally for equal work. Doing so will strengthen your employment brand. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
  7. Recruit good women internally. Your future leaders may already be working for you — you just need to nurture them. Systematically identify your promising female protégés and pair them with established female executives in your organization to fast track career growth. Alternately, consider investing in professional and/or leadership development training programs to accelerate upward mobility for women.

Women may be a bit challenging for your organization to recruit, especially in today’s employment market. But the benefits — including improved diversity, fresh approaches to management and enhanced business performance — make it worth the effort.


AUTHOR:  Allison O’Kelly is founder and CEO of Mom Corps, a national talent acquisition and career development firm with a focus on flexibility.

Reprinted from TALENT MANAGEMENT magazine


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