Women have been the majority of the US population for more than 40 years. To say women deserve a seat at the table in business would be an understatement. Organizations across the country and the world are coming to realize and appreciate the unique merits of having women in positions of power where they can exert influence and make decisions. Still, some companies are asking why they need to focus on recruiting more women to their company’s leadership in the first place.

Why Your Company Needs More Women In Leadership Roles

“Never make an important decision without a woman at the table.” 

Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estée Lauder

Ensuring a broad perspective when making organizational decisions doesn’t just apply to male leaders making decisions for a women’s cosmetics company. Diverse leadership benefits corporations and public organizations in ways we are now just recognizing in the US. Below are a few examples of the benefits of gender parity in leadership and its dividends.

The facts and numbers show that gender parity in your company’s leadership is good for business. Men and women bring unique perspectives and skillsets to the table and provide more holistic strategy and leadership for stakeholders. With that in mind, how can you recruit more women into your company’s leadership?

How to Recruit More Women into Leadership Positions

Gender diversity is a growing priority for job seekers and it’s not only a one-way street. According to a LinkedIn report, 78% of men and women talent professionals stated that gender diversity was a priority. These numbers indicate great things to come for gender parity, but changing age-old practices, inherent biases, and discrimination is a process that can only succeed by focusing on long-term behavioral change.

Recruiting and retaining talented women requires a concerted focus by companies to create and achieve diversity goals with supporting initiatives. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training is an excellent way to begin shifting your company and its culture in the right direction. DEI training should be formal, frequent, ongoing, and focused on changing the long-term behaviors of your company towards gender equity.

7 Ways to Recruit More Women in Leadership Positions

1. Make Hiring Women a Priority Initiative with Measurable Goals

In 2015, Pinterest set a public, measurable goal of hiring 30% more women in full-time engineering roles. Pinterest challenged its engineering teams to refer twice as many female candidates for new hires. In a 2016 update, Pinterest announced a 5% increase due to the initiative, with women filling more than 25% of Pinterest’s technical roles. The company also brought more women into senior leadership roles, including heads of engineering, product design, and diversity. 

2. Improve Your Referral Targeting 

Referrals are often hailed as the best source for quality hires. However, according to a 2017 white paper from PayScale, job referrals benefits skew towards white men. While white men comprised 34% of the US labor market, Payscale found they represented 40% of all referrals. The same report found white women represented 30%, and women of color represented 13% of all referrals.

Reframing your referral incentives with a simple increase in incentives for referring women candidates can be a straightforward solution. In 2015, Intel created a program wherein employees who referred women, minorities, or veterans received double the referral bonus. Like Pinterest, Intel set a measurable goal: increase its women workforce by 14% in five years. To support the initiative, the company promoted its diversity program and revamped its referral process to make it easier.

3. Be Honest About Your Company Culture & Hiring Process

In many companies, the male-dominated workforce and culture are so ingrained that they are not aware of the gender biases and, in some cases, discriminatory policies in place. While awareness is increasing, it is still necessary to shine a light on the aspects of a company’s culture that can be off-putting to women job seekers and look for ways to update your company’s culture to be a more inclusive, gender-neutral workplace. Organizations need to be proactive in creating cultures and systems that make it easy to have conversations about gender equity. 

Part of that includes changing your company’s hiring process by making it a priority to interview more women candidates. Step one is to ensure you have a diverse hiring panel. Additionally, managers should ask and not assume what women want in the workplace. See more strategies for uncovering and reducing unconscious bias in your hiring process.

4. Make Policy Changes to Promote Gender Equity 

Formalize the promotion of gender equity through changes to policy and procedure. These changes can be updates to existing policies and procedures or the introduction of new ones. Changes to make your company and workplace more attractive to women make recruiting and retaining top female talent for your organization easier. Here are a few policy and benefit examples that women in the workplace highly value.

  • Flexible Work Hours
  • Equal Pay
  • Competitive Leave Policy

For many career women, these policies and benefits are potent indicators of a company that will recognize, respect, and reward them as employees. One way to start is by asking the women in your organizations about what company policies matter most to them and what potential benefits they would like to see added.

5. Go Public with Your DEI Commitments

Regardless of talent or experience, women often feel a sense of inadequacy when searching and applying for jobs. In their 2014 article for The Atlantic, Katty Kay and Claire Shipmen refer to this phenomenon as “the confidence gap.” They found women often screen themselves out of a job opportunity before they apply when they don’t meet most, if not all, of the job description requirements. Conversely, male applicants were likely to apply for jobs if they met at least 60% of the requirements. 

According to LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report, male and female job seekers are equally likely to visit a company’s LinkedIn page and research a company’s culture before applying. Going public with your DEI commitments on your website and social media can help women job seekers feel more confident in applying to positions at your company. 

  • Highlight your commitment to hiring more women, especially in underserved areas like technical roles or senior leadership
  • Share stories of women succeeding within your organization at all levels
  • Showcase your inclusive policies and any recent actions that show your company is an inclusive and unbiased workplace

6. Write Women-Focused Job Descriptions

Continuing from the previous point, job descriptions matter a lot when attracting and hiring talented women. As noted above, women can dissuade themselves from applying for a role based solely on the job description and its requirements. Consider, the more demanding and specific you make the requirements of your job description, the more your applicant pool may skew towards male jobseekers.

Having the fitting job description is your first opportunity to show your organization is committed to DEI initiatives. Doing so will increase the chances of top female talent applying. Here are some more tips for crafting a job description that will capture the interest of more career women looking for new opportunities.

Salary Transparency

Salary and benefits information is the number one ranked most important part of a job description for job seekers of all genders. But, it is 10 percent more important to women. Being transparent with a role’s compensation shows your organization is committed to fair and equal pay for all applicants. 

High-Value Benefits

Highlight the key policies and benefits of your company that are important to career women (modified work schedules, competitive leave policy, etc.). These benefits should be at the forefront of job descriptions for companies trying to attract top female talent. 

Gender Neutral or Women Oriented Language

Many job descriptions use masculine terms like rockstar or ninja that can make women feel excluded, that they are not the desired applicant for the job solely based on its language. HR tools like Ongig can help you adjust the language of your job descriptions to be gender-neutral or use more female-targeted language.

7. Target Women Job Boards, Organizations, and Colleges

Fish where the fish are by tapping into places that already nurture and support high-performing career women. Look for the career women leading employee resource groups, taking active roles in industry organizations for professionals, and even career development programs.

Retaining Female Talent and Women in Leadership

Finding and hiring top female talent is just the start of recruiting more women into your company’s leadership. You want them to stick and stay, meaning retention is just as crucial for your DEI efforts. Retaining high-performing career women and women in leadership usually comes down to a few basic questions about their relationship with your company.

  • Do women employees at your organization feel valued? 
  • Do they feel heard? 
  • Do they have a voice?
  • Can they grow as professionals?
  • Is their career development supported? 

Ideally, the answer to each question is yes. Ensuring women in your organization are supported does not need to be a herculean task. Here are five ways to show your organization is committed to retention, gender parity, and leadership diversity.

1. Recruit Women for Leadership Roles Internally

Before going outside your company to hire for a leadership position, look at the talent you already have. Creating a diverse leadership pipeline strengthens its structure and shows women avenues for advancement exist within your organization. It’s often easier to train and give great internal talent the opportunity to rise into a leadership role than it is to find someone with the requisite training and experience, but who’s drive and personality are unknown. 

2. Provide Women the Tools to Succeed

Women entering leadership roles within an organization need the knowledge and training to pave the path to success. Regular training courses and seminars can help women prepare for leadership-focused roles in your organization. Informal training, where employees share expertise and experience, should also be a priority.

Further, the company should encourage and even sponsor women to enroll in leadership training and support programs offered by reputable establishments. EWF International’s Peer Advisory Forums are great for women in senior leadership positions. The Emerging Leaders Program is an early- to mid-career leadership training program that supports women’s career development.

3. Create Networking Opportunities and Experience 

Active and skillful networking is crucial to career advancement into senior leadership and building personal influence. Helping female employees network, gain access to information, and gain exposure to opportunities help ensure women in your organization know you support their career development. Supporting career development is a cornerstone of employee retention. Further, female leaders with solid networks can use those contacts to benefit your organization.

4. Create a Robust Mentorship Program

A strong mentorship program is an excellent way of offering constructive pathways and training to help high-potential employees. Internal mentorship programs allow early-career women and women in leadership to build and foster new connections by assisting them to coach and be coached by those within the organization. Strategies like reverse mentoring have proved effective at increasing female leadership within companies. 

Recruit More Female Talent and Women Leaders: Lead by Example

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” by Gandhi, might perhaps be one of the most quoted lines in the world. But there is a reason for that. Don’t wait for somebody else to pave the path to progress. Put in place policies and practices within your organization that will encourage more women to become leaders, help rid the impediments that hold women back from fulfilling their true potential, and provide increased diversity that is likely to impact the bottom line positively.

Having women in leadership roles at the executive and middle management level has consistently shown us the power of leadership diversity. While, yes, there is a lot of work left to be done, we must also acknowledge that we have come a long way in the recent past. And we are better for it.