“How do we attract more women to apply for our job vacancies?”
It’s a question we often get asked as recruiters.
It’s almost as though there is a hidden secret, kept undercover from companies seeking to diversify their teams. For organisations with large employee numbers above 500, you would expect there to be a diversity strategy in place to ensure a workforce that is representative of the population, however, only a handful of companies have successfully achieved gender parity and 79% of global companies have stated that they haven’t prioritized achieving gender equality.
The truth is, there aren’t any secrets. Women want to feel like they can be a valuable asset to your company and be fairly treated. So, why is it that there is unconscious bias in recruiters and hiring managers, leading to them being 13% less likely to open a woman’s profile than a man’s when she shows up in a search? (LinkedIn Gender Insights Report). Of course, there is a deeper issue here, with unconscious bias formed through outdated notions of gender stereotypes and capabilities.
Refreshingly, looking at the data women are 16% more likely than men to be hired after applying for a job. Women are indeed more selective of which roles they apply for, often being deterred by male-specific language such as ‘aggressive sales strategy’ and ‘dominate your marketplace’, and also due to the ‘Confidence Gap’. We can dissect this at a later point to discuss how you can ensure that your job advertisements are gender-neutral and appealing to both men and women.
However, let’s take the above statistic and consider why women are more likely to be hired than men. In this day and age, there is a common idea that companies are no longer recruiting employees based on merit but instead basing their hiring on tick-box exercises to ensure they have that desirable, diverse, and modern culture. However, despite clicking on a man’s profile first, data shows that recruiters discover women to be just as qualified as men, therefore Inmails and messages are sent to both genders at a very similar rate.
So, once the recruiter or hiring manager has determined that the woman and the man are equally qualified, and with diversity being a key goal for many companies, we can safely assume that this is why women are more likely to be chosen for the position.
Considering that a man’s application is more likely to be opened first we can only conclude that unconscious bias does exist. Is it really so surprising that women can be as qualified as men? At this point, it’s all about changing a cultural narrative. It’s about reshaping how we view women and how we view men. It’s quite obvious how society needs to start shaking this narrative up, and a simple way to start is for women to have positive, female role models. Women who are exposed to the success stories of other women can feel confident that their goals are attainable and worthwhile.
Growing up we are obtusely aware that our favourite protagonists, inventors, scientists, and business leaders are predominantly male. In Caroline Criado Perez’s book ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In a World Designed for Men’ she looks at role models in film and television and discovered that men not only have more roles but they also spend twice as much time on-screen than women, and this rises to almost three times as much when, as most films do, the film has a male lead.
Women are born into a patriarchal society where we are taught, as we all are, to view the world from a male perspective. As we grow older, we tend to discover that everything we’ve ever known, the traditions we’ve succumbed to, and habits that we inherit are based on the social constructs of gender roles and stereotypes.
By sharing the success stories of your female employees, or other minority groups that are underrepresented in the workplace, you will begin to promote a positive brand image and increase the attraction for women, the BAME & POC community, LGBTQ+ community, and all those who are disproportionately represented.
Role models encourage children to pinpoint a desirable career at an early age and not feel dismissed by an industry that isn’t representative of them. By increasing diverse role models, we can offer the youth more opportunities to get involved in industries that twenty-years ago wouldn’t have welcomed them. Your applicants need to view your culture as tolerant and morally-led.
Having a set of values and company ethos can often seem like a cliché, however, it is genuinely becoming more and more important as people want to see that their employer has a moral set of standards and zero-tolerance to both damaging and criminal behaviours, such as sexual harassment, hate crimes, and racism at work.
As job titles such as Head of Diversity and Diversity & Inclusion Manager increase, it’s clear to see a positive societal shift to resolving the issue of recruiting predominantly male work environments. But this isn’t enough.
It is a good idea to get involved in women-centric industry groups and initiatives that encourage women into the industry. For example, in the Additive Manufacturing industry, there is Women in 3D Printing (WI3DP) founded by Nora Toure. This platform gives women an opportunity to meet and to share their experiences of the industry and is another excellent way to attract women to your organisation if you’re shown to support such groups.
Your job adverts are also a great place to start. As mentioned earlier, utilising gender-neutral language to encourage both men and women to apply is crucial. Removing masculine vernacular will encourage women to visualise themselves in the role too. Whilst women can undoubtedly adopt stereotypical male traits, e.g. dominance and aggression, this language on-the-whole alienates women who feel that these descriptions of behaviour are not in line with their typical style.
The ‘Confidence Gap’ is becoming more widely known as a reason for women only applying for a role if they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men are said to have more confidence in their abilities even if they don’t meet the requirements. This leads to them applying for roles where they only match 60% of the criteria.
Returning to the earlier statistic that women are 16% more likely to be hired than men for applying to a job, it shows that their 100% confidence that they match all of the criteria does pay-off here. So it’s not a bad strategy at all. However, as a Recruitment Company, we recognise that there are plenty of times that our clients choose to take on a rough-diamond and offer training and qualifications to bring the employee up to speed. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to be transparent about training opportunities in your advertisements to attract women who feel that they may fall short of the checkboxes.
Lastly, women are increasingly seeking flexible working opportunities, especially with the issues around COVID, resulting in taking a step back, or in some cases taking a step-down completely from their careers. As much as the world is seeking to break down gender roles, it is no secret that for the most part women remain to be the predominant home-makers and do what is known as double-shifts; going to work at their official job and then returning home to complete endless tasks of domestic labour. Flexible working allows them to organise their lives efficiently and in a way that reduces stress and the possibility of them leaving their role in the future.
As a final point, these issues must be recognised by all. This isn’t a women’s issue that only women can solve. Educating and training employees and managers, and championing equal rights across the business will lead to a more inclusive and diverse culture in your organisation.
If you require any further advice on this topic feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kensingtons are committed to ensuring a fair recruitment process for all and have internal policies and procedures to ensure a zero-discrimination environment. As an REC accredited organisation, we are trained and continue to be trained in executing and upholding best practices.
 Newburger, E., 2019. 79 Percent Of Global Companies Say They Haven’t Prioritized Achieving Gender Equality, New IBM Research Finds. [online] CNBC. Available at: <https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/08/79-percent-of-global-companies-are-not-prioritizing-gender-equality.html> [Accessed 23 November 2020].
 Criado Perez, C., n.d. Invisible Women. London: Vintage, p.10.
 Women's Refugee Commission. 2020. Research Resources | Women's Refugee Commission. [online] Available at: <https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/research-resources/> [Accessed 23 November 2020].
 Mohr, T., 2014. Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: <https://hbr.org/2014/08/why-women-dont-apply-for-jobs-unless-theyre-100-qualified> [Accessed 23 November 2020].
 McKinsey & Company. 2020. Women in The Workplace 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace> [Accessed 23 November 2020].