Gender diversity in the workplace: practical strategies

Nerida Loth writes about gender diversity in the workplace.

The business case is clear on the benefits of workplace diversity. With that comes the competitive challenges around recruiting women in the workplace, given most organizations recognize the business performance benefits of a more diverse workforce.

Now let’s explore a few of the ways in which you can help your workplace achieve gender-diversity goals.

Achieving gender diversity in the workplace is a business challenge, not a talent acquisition team’s problem to solve for the business.

A sustainable solution takes commitment from the all levels of the organization, starting with the highest, writes Talent Acquisition Director Nerida Loth. Progress in this area relies on a number of factors beyond the control of HR.

Too often, the job is squarely placed with HR or Talent Acquisition Teams to “fix” on behalf of the organization which is akin to asking the HR department to “fix” employee engagement.

While it remains every leader’s role to work towards a more diverse workforce, the talent acquisition function provides direction and support along this journey.

As leaders, we can employ a range of strategies to improve gender diversity in the workplace.

From creating female-friendly job advertisements, to crafting competitive work policies, small steps can help shift our workplaces towards becoming more gender balanced.

We’ve acknowledged the challenges around recruiting women in the workplace. Now let’s explore a few of the ways in which you can help your workplace achieve gender-diversity goals.


Make your job advertisements more inviting

It’s well recognized that these days, most candidates are viewing job ads on a smart device. With that in mind, a “less is more” approach is more important than ever, regardless of demographic.

In terms of appealing to a female audience, one of the most important things you can do is limit the job ad candidate “wish list” to a maximum of five mandatory criteria. Otherwise, females in particular are more likely to self-select out by being overly critical of their experience match to the person requirements.

As you write your job ads, consider using a “female friendly” voice. Writing tools such as Textio can help.


Communicate supportive HR policies

Female talent is in demand, so ensure your HR policies are market-competitive or market-leading. This applies to parental leave, flexible work, and any other types of leave offered.

These policies should be easy to find by all candidates as they research your company and culture as much as the role itself.

The decision to leave an organization and join a new one is a big one regardless of gender, especially if there’s a fear that hard fought flexibility benefits earned over time will be lost or diminished in the new organization. Having clearly communicated workplace benefits and flexible work options in your job ads or on your corporate careers site will help overcome this fear for candidates.


gender diversity in the workplace

Invite candidates for informal conversations about your workplace and culture.

Bring culture into the interview process

For proactively sourced talent, offer informal meetups such as a coffee catch-up before scheduling a formal interview process.

Casual conversations help candidates learn more about the opportunity and corporate culture before deciding whether to formally apply. People want to know what the workplace norms are, including dress code, flexi-time, etc.

When planning the interview stage, ensure the panel includes female leaders.

Randomly including women onto an interview panel as a façade of diversity, however, is not the answer. The panels must be assembled thoughtfully, with each member able to provide meaningful input, and everyone acknowledging the value of diverse opinions. Otherwise, it is a token gesture and will not achieve the desired result of a better hiring outcome.

Spruiking a culture to candidates where women are valued, supported and treated equally is meaningless if women are noticeably absent during the interview and selection process.


Incentivise leaders on workplace diversity outcomes

Having diversity measures as part of a leader’s scorecard is a powerful way of shifting the dial on gender mix outcomes.

While holding leaders accountable on engagement scores for their teams is not uncommon, setting clear targets on workplace diversity is less so. Meaningful change is likely to follow if leaders’ bonuses are tied to such targets!

Always ensure your policies comply with your country’s hiring laws.


Proactively offer career development opportunities

Want to develop your female leaders and stretch them beyond their comfort zone? Actively seek secondment opportunities for them. This helps develop and diversify skills while building capability in a safe environment.

Providing an internal “Women’s Network” where female employees from across the business can interact, network, and share their experience in an informal setting can be a powerful way of building connections. Support networks can also encourage retention.

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