This year, workplace diversity is a goal for almost every company as they become more aware of the benefits. There are numerous studies that have been conducted (and are still being conducted) on workplace diversity and inclusion.
For instance, in a publication by McKinsey & Company, diversity makes companies outperform their competitors. Diversity is a great determinant of talent pool; diverse companies effortlessly attract top tier talents and therefore benefit from their capabilities. A report by Harvard Business Review mentioned that diversity drives innovation and such companies can penetrate new markets 70% more than those that are not diverse. Last but not least, a report by BCG noted that diversity drives innovation and higher revenue generation of about 19%.
Diversity is a multifaceted concept and in 2022, companies are approaching it differently. Some are crossing geographical boundaries to hire professionals from other nationalities. Some are seeking talents from minority groups, and some are tackling the common divide in the workplace of men and women.
In this article, we will look at some of the tried and tested techniques of attracting and retaining female workers across all professions. It is important to note that none of the techniques is a standalone or one-size-fits-all. It should be curated to fit the company.
- Make the big announcement
One of the easiest ways of attracting female workers is by making it known that you are intentionally looking for them. In this age of social media, word spreads quickly and that would encourage more female workers to apply for jobs in the company.
Apart from using marketing materials like e-books, blogs, podcasts, and newsletters, informing the rest of your team that you are looking for female workers would spread the word even faster. Also, with the increase of female groups for both professional and casual purposes, the rate of the news spreading will multiply.
- Use gender neutral language in job descriptions
In a research conducted by Harvard Kennedy School and Women and Public Policy program on the effects of language on action to job descriptions, women are less likely to respond to job descriptions that have masculine words while there is minimal effect of feminine words on male candidates. In a related report published by Zip Recruiter, job descriptions that have gender-neutral words attract more than 42% positive responses.
Various researchers have stated that the use of language that is socially acceptable for men and has a negative connotation for women discourages them from applying for jobs. This includes words such as dominant, aggressive, ninja, and others. Glassdoor recommended some tips on how to remove gender biasness in job descriptions by: using pronouns, using neutral words such as the candidate, manager, and others, stating female and family friendly benefits, limiting the number of requirements and superlatives, and others.
- Use bias-free recruitment practices
The nature of recruitment determines the number of female workers who join a company at any time. Conscious and unconscious biases against female professionals can push the number even lower.
While championing for transformative recruitment strategies to accommodate more women in the workforce, it is important for us to know that responsibilities do not end after recruitment. The truly transformative recruitment strategies are the ones that ensure that female are hired for what they can offer rather than who they are. Some strategies that have been recommended by researchers include anonymizing applications, using standard tests, and educating recruiters about both conscious and unconscious biases against the female gender.
Female professionals are seeking avenues where their potential will be appreciated and maximally used. This calls for leaders across professions to frequently assess work environments after hiring and taking of the necessary action if the results are not satisfactory.
It is equally important for all to accept that success in a career is not gender dependent and gender is not a catalyst of success. It might be more challenging for one gender to achieve something than the other, but that does not mean that gender is the defining factor.
Executives and other key decision-makers should lead their companies to start focusing on what really matters, which is an individual’s ability to use knowledge gained over time to succeed in different activities.
- Meet basic requirements of female employees and across all levels
Needless to say, the needs of men are quite different from those of women. This means that an environment that does not seem to recognize or act in accordance with that basic information is unlikely to attract female professionals or keep them around for long.
In aspects of retaining professionals, it is crucial for companies to come up with policies that support work life. For example,
Does the company have any measures for assisting women who are in different levels such as pregnant, have small children, school-going children, children with disabilities and others?
What happens when women take maternity breaks? Are they segregated and treated as if they do not belong? Are they left behind or supported to catch up?
One thing that prevents female professionals from advancing their careers is family commitments. When companies deny them opportunities that would help them thrive in both, most of them end up sacrificing their careers to take care of their families. Surprisingly, when they join the workforce later, some do not get the support they desire, are discriminated during recruitment, or given jobs that are below their level.
To increase the number of women in the workforce, it is important for companies to make the work environment friendly. Commitments to family life should not be seen as lack of commitment to the work or an enemy to the work.
5. Purposely promote talents
There are several ways that companies can promote talents:
First is offering female workers opportunities for growth and supporting them. Another effective method is through mentorship. While at it, we should rethink the core basics of this concept. For a long time, mentorship has been about offering essentials with little communication with the recipients on what they really need. But while seeking to purposely attract female workers, the best approach to mentorship should be having deep conversations with them to understand their actual needs and acting from that point.
The third approach is ensuring salary transparency. Last but not least, female professionals should be encouraged to seek opportunities in every profession because different stakeholders can only do as much.
6. Prevent harassment
Sexual harassment is a major cause of turnover of female workers across professions. We have heard many cases of female professionals being harassed by their supervisors, colleagues, and other male counterparts in the premises and no action is taken for a while. As a leader, you should purpose to create policies against harassment but also create an environment where such cases can be reported and take the right action. In addition, there should be education on how harassment looks like, either through actions or words to all.
Achieving diversity goals is not a one-day activity. Rather, it is the result of many activities entwined and frequently assessed and revised to find which works for the target population.