More women in leadership reflects the real world, and it’s good for business
The results are in, and its official, organisations with women in leadership roles are more profitable so while it’s disappointing that there aren’t more female senior managers, it’s also bad for business.
In 2015-16 just over a third of all managers in Australia were women, and although around 40% of non-senior managers were women, that dropped to 16.3% by the time it got to the CEO headcount.
Some industries fare better than others; retail with an industry average of 41% female executives, is well above the average of 23.2% across Australia’s top 2000 companies, according to CommBank Retail Insights 2016. Although the larger the retail business, the fewer female executives it's likely to have.
Recognising the issue is half the battle, but helping women break through the glass ceiling needs a more coordinated approach to the recruitment and retention of female talent.
In case of emergency break glass
Breaking through the glass ceiling means overcoming barriers such as employer bias, outdated gender stereotypes about ambition and flexibility, recruiting for potential as well as actual skills, setting targets for gender diversity, and closing the pay gap.
That starts with how organisations, and their HR teams, attract and retain their female talent pool.
Recent global research by PWC identified eight key themes that directly affect gender diversity in the workplace through recruitment and retention processes:
- Employer bias in favour men
- Employer trends towards an inclusive attraction and selection process
- The active fight for female talent
- Opportunities for career progression that don’t rely on outdated stereotypes
- An organisational culture that genuinely reflects diversity
- Recognising and recruiting for potential, not just actual skills
- Proactive policies to close the gender pay gap
- Realising the potential of digital technology and data analytics to create a more inclusive recruitment process
What does this mean in practice?
When it comes to explaining why more experienced women don't find their way into senior roles, employers and candidates think differently. Employers tend to blame external factors such as a lack of skills, a lack of talented candidates, or that their industry is not attractive to women.
Female candidates were more likely to cite internal factors such as the unconscious bias of employers towards men, and agencies were not referring enough women, as well as a lack of policies to actively promote and attract women, and outdated gender stereotypes. Interestingly both agreed that women didn’t pursue career opportunities as aggressively as men.
80% of employers surveyed by PWC said they had aligned their diversity and recruitment strategies, while the number of CEOs who focused on talent and diversity was 87%, up from 64% in 2015.
That number dropped to 58% for employers actively trying to recruit more females, and many women find they still hit a brick wall long before they get to the glass ceiling thanks to ill-thought out recruitment practices.
But while some employers might not be actively pursuing inclusive recruitment practices a majority reported at least exploring them, including:
- More diversity on interview panels
- Training recruitment professionals in diversity
- Ensuring inclusive language in role descriptions
- Establishing recruitment targets
- Using blind applications to eliminate bias
- Offering referral benefits for diverse hires
And almost three-quarters of employers adopting these practices said they were having a positive effect, with target setting topped the list as the most beneficial.
But not all efforts to improve diversity are so easily quantifiable, and the fight for female talent as the PWC research sees it also includes recognising that non-technical skills traditionally associated with women such as collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence are fundamental to organisational success.
Employer of Choice
Begin an employer of choice means more than just identifying skilled candidates; for potential female recruits an attractive employer also offers:
- Clear opportunities for career progression
- Flexible working arrangements and a culture of work life balance
- Opportunities for training and development
Employers of choice also ‘walk the talk’, and demonstrate progress in diversity with publicly promoted targets for women in senior roles, positive female role models, and a culture that genuinely reflects diversity through social media and in the images used to attract candidates.
A whopping 76% of women on a career break also said they wanted to return to work, but only 28% of businesses surveyed had a formal return-to-work program. It's a gap that needs to close if businesses are going to help women reach their full potential, and not just sideline them into junior roles.
An employer of choice also offers fair and equitable money, but more than half of the female candidates for senior roles thought there was a pay gap, and only 41% of organisations said they actively monitor any pay gap, though another 35% do monitor on an ad hoc basis.
Gender diversity is the right thing ethically and commercially, and most businesses want to see change. Smart businesses recognise it will take more than updating a few policies to achieve it.
At a policy level, steps organisations can take to promote gender diversity include:
- Workforce planning: embed diversity into operational and strategic workforce criteria
- Training: for all stakeholders so they drive inclusive recruitment efforts
- Role definition: use inclusive language and criteria, and define broader capabilities
- Search firm management: pick ones with a credible record, share targets and link commission to outcomes
- Marketing the role: using images that illustrate inclusion
And to make sure the best candidates get through, PWC recommend the following at each step of the process:
- Shortlist using blind CVs and performance assessment platforms
- Interview panels should be diverse and criteria consistent and inclusive
- Hiring decisions should be collective, against set criteria and with diversity targets in mind
- Salary offers should be set based on the value of role, not current remuneration
- Establish diversity in onboarding curriculum, have a buddy system and share diversity targets
What gets measured gets done so measure success with effective KPIs, and make incremental changes, until the policies and processes get results.
On every level gender diversity and more women in leadership roles makes sense, so it’s worth devoting the time and resources needed to achieve it.
West Recruitment has been offering tailored recruitment solutions to employers and candidates in Sydney for over ten years.
For a confidential chat about how we can help you fill your next vacancy, or make your next move call one of the Parramatta team on 02 9689 8900 or one of the Sydney team on 02 8036 7600. Or to register with us click here.
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