So you want to address the gender thing

It starts at the top!

This is a tough subject for me to wrap my head around because, while I understand that there is a wage gap, and gender diversity is an issue in some companies (especially in the executive ranks and corporate board seats) I have only encountered it once in my career.  I do, however, regularly get questions from clients who genuinely WANT to create a more blended team, not only for pure diversity sake, but for simple reasons that include such sentiments as, “working with dudes all day gets a little boring.”

Since founding Goldstone Partners I have had the honor of coaching and mentoring many professional women, and I do see some general differences between how men and women approach their careers.  Answering the question, “How do you create more gender diversity?” is certainly not something that can be solved in a brief article.  However, based on my personal experience, here are a few non-scientific thoughts and tips on how to get started.

  1. It starts at the top.   It is possible to have a healthy and blended team – but your leadership must take the initiative.  Inclusiveness and gender diversity simply must be a company value.  Not just on the website – you must LIVE these values.  As a company leader you have to set the tone by coaching, mentoring and recognizing women who are your future.  This means more than just having that “token woman” on your team.  This means that, in your effort to hire the most amazing talent you can, you make a concerted effort to find women who fit your needs.  This is harder to do in some sectors where the percentage of men to women in the applicable population is off balance.  It CAN be done – but you’ll have to commit to doing it. 
  2. Recruit with purpose and intent.  One of the first things we do when we onboard a new portfolio client is rewrite their “job postings” in the form of advertisements.  We pay close attention to communicating directly with our target audience.  If we are specifically profiling women for a position, the words in the ad copy are a little different than if we are solely looking for a specific set of skills.  For instance, the words RESOURCES and MANPOWER are not gender inclusive.  These words, regardless of the target gender, make you sound like a machine rather than a company comprised of “humans.” The words COMMUNITY, TEAM and VILLAGE are more likely to catch the eye of women in our experience.  I also believe that you should promote your family friendly benefits and perks in the advertisement so that candidates know this is not a choice between a job and family. 
  3. Negotiate salary based on merit only – not need.  When talking about salary many professionals simply aren’t good at it.  More women than men give on salary during a negotiation.  When I interview coaching clients one of my questions is, “tell me about your salary requirements.”  The answer is almost always, “I earned $$$ in my last position but I really don’t need to make that much.  I could accept $$ and a lesser title.”  Two thoughts here: 1. If this sounds like you – please stop. And 2. When you are considering compensation for a candidate, I don’t feel that you should pay her less than she made in her last position just because she doesn’t need it.  And finally if she was under market in her last position then for goodness sake get her up to market!
  4. Hang out where your target audience does.  I proudly surround myself with a team of highly qualified moms.  This is a requirement of mine, not just a happy accident.  Ask me about the “why” and I’ll proudly tell you.  When I started recruiting for my own team I knew what I wanted, but had to figure out where to find the candidates I was looking for.  I started by asking, “where are we going to find moms?”  The answer isn’t Indeed.  Moms are very busy people, so when they get a free moment it generally isn’t being spent on LinkedIn.  Instead, we use mom groups and local neighborhood sites to find our talent, and have terrific success.  The bottom line – think beyond the “classic” places to find women professionals.  Simply tossing a posting on isn’t committing to embracing a blended workforce.
  5. Mentor and grow your future leaders in the way they need to succeed.  I have observed that many ladies do their jobs and excel without seeking accolades or self-promoting.  “I sort of expect that if I do a good job I will be recognized, I shouldn’t have to ask for it,” is the sentiment that I often hear.  Recognize that your future women leaders may not be knocking on your door to ask for opportunity – she will expect you to take notice that she’s earned it.  Make a point of growing and coaching your women toward leadership roles.  The message might be that if they would step up and take on this challenge they will be setting an example for young women who will come in behind them.  And we love to set examples….. 

Creating a blended team won’t happen overnight, especially if your company is off-balance already.  However, studies show that a companies with diverse teams are happier and more productive, so it is worth the effort to start taking steps in the right direction.  Tackle this challenge now and watch the positive results!  For more ideas on how to be more inclusive in your hiring efforts visit us here!

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