Gender equality has been under a harsh spotlight for some time now, with pitiful percentages of women in upper management and inexplicable differences in pay. Sure, we’ve made significant progress in the last 100 years, but diversity is still a huge issue and we can’t afford to stop pushing forward.
There are many, many ways in which you can make your workplace a more hospitable place for diversity – not only women. Here are just five!
1. Finding candidates from new pools
When questioned about having so few female employees, a lot of hiring managers will respond defensively, pointing out that so few female candidates applied for the role. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that the situation is out of your control.
Be a little more creative with your recruitment strategy, advertising in places that might appeal to your target employees. Look for places where mothers looking to return to work might congregate, or industry-related online forums with a higher female ratio – spaces like Women in Tech, STEM Women, or whatever your industry equivalent might be.
2. Having an unbiased hiring process
Bias is one of those sneaky things hiding in plain sight. You might think that your job description and hiring panel are gender-neutral, but chances are they’re actually skewed to show an unconscious preference towards male candidates. For example, using terms in job descriptions that are harder for women to identify with, like “hacker”, “ninja” or “rockstar” – these might look neutral, but they’re still coded as male.
Writing an inclusive job description is very tricky but when it starts to balance out the number of male and female candidates applying for your vacancies, you’ll quickly see how much of a difference it makes.
Likewise, when it comes to interviewing, recognize that every person in your company will have their own unconscious bias, with many people preferring candidates that look and behave like themselves (known as “affinity bias”). You can neutralize this by making sure your interview panel represents more than one race, gender, age group and body type.
3. Cultivating women leaders
Make sure you’re providing professional development opportunities that are accessible to the women in your company, which will, in turn, help new female candidates to see their potential in a vacant position.
Reverse mentoring can be particularly effective when pairing an experienced male leader with a younger, female mentor. Both parties gain valuable insight into a new perspective and it puts a spotlight on the female employees that you believe will be leading the company in years to come.
Don’t have any potential leaders to show off? Maybe it’s time to open up new opportunities for your current staff.
4. Develop neutral, inclusive benefits
You already know that advertising specific types of benefits and specific parts of your company culture will attract a specific type of candidate… so why aren’t you using this to attract more women? These could include childcare subsidies or parental leave (including paternity leave that is as fair as maternity leave), but be aware that not every woman will fit the same, family-centric cookie cutter shape.
Instead, work towards offering all of your employees benefits that suit their needs, whether that’s accessed to subsidized fitness (of their choosing), time off for volunteer activities or a certain amount of remote working days.
5. Flexible working
Actually, remote working and flexible hours are so important that they deserve a point to themselves. For the most part, women are still expected to be the primary caregivers and chief of the household, even when they’re back at work. By actively demonstrating flexible working policies for all members of staff, you’re reassuring female candidates that they don’t have to choose between having a personal life and a professional one.
In practice, this requires open lines of communication and organization, particularly where you bring on board employees with different working requirements, whether they’re based around children, pets or other external requirements. Using an online system – particularly for shift-based work – will help your team and HR department to keep track of employee schedules.
It can be difficult to see how an individual can impact the gender diversity of their working environment but don’t think that you’re off the hook just because you’re not a hiring manager. Now is the time to be having open discussions across departments about how to level the playing field and encourage fresh and experienced female talent into the workforce. Do your research and make sure you can take part in these discussions, no matter who you are and how it affects you personally.
About the author: Mike James is an experienced business writer specializing in HR, tech, and cybersecurity. On the latter, he has contributed to many of the leading publications both online and in print – such as StaySafeOnline, GlobalSign, Tech London and more.