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Unleashing your company’s potential by tackling gender equality

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

Making sure that our clients have access to the talent that will help their business to flourish is what we do day in and day out. Ensuring that organisations have access to a wide talent pool – regardless of gender – is integral to this. Competition for talent is rife, skills shortages are severe and companies need to be able to access the best talent when they need it if they are to be successful. In sectors like IT, the challenges are completely different to marketing and construction. But, what is the same regardless of industry or profession is that diversity is vital for attracting and retaining staff and there are some simple steps employers can take in order to redress the balance.

In a recent global survey that we carried out, respondents were asked on a scale of one to five how committed their employer is to achieving gender equality. From over 1,100 responses, only close to a third (32%) said their employer was committed to achieving gender equality. This is quite worrying. Either companies aren’t investing in tackling gender inequality enough, or they are, but they aren’t making their staff aware of what they are doing. The survey also revealed that women (39%) were more likely to believe there was a need for improvement, versus 23% of men.

We work with organisations to help them understand where their diversity challenge lies, how their recruitment strategies can help overcome them, and where the opportunities are. Understanding what motivates men and women will help them to attract the best talent. Having policies and processes in place to support both men and women to achieve balance will ultimately help companies to attract and keep good people. Leaders have a responsibility to tackle the issue of gender inequality.

Having a strong employer brand, which accurately portrays a diverse and open culture, is key to attracting men and women, but particularly women. Putting schemes in place to raise the profile of leading women and having training programmes in place specifically tailored to helping women to develop are all signs of an employer that promotes gender equality and wants its females to succeed. Making everybody aware of the opportunities and ensuring that women aspire to the most senior positions too will help.

What five things will make a difference to gender equality?

1. Understand where your gaps are – whether it is across particular levels or types of roles, you need have a clear picture of the make-up of your workforce and your skills needs

2. Convey a culture that speaks to women – the motivators for men and women are often different. If you want to attract women, will your culture appeal and how will you show this?

3. Put development programmes in place that are tailored specifically to women. You need to have the right training programmes in place to allow women to acquire the skills, particularly the soft skills, they need to upskill and continue to develop

4. Celebrate the successes of your women – support their networking, help women within your organisation to raise their personal brand and promote these achievements on social media to reach prospective employees too

5. Ensure women aspire to the most senior jobs within your organisation – even with the right structures and processes in place, women need to want to get to the top

Limiting it to just five key areas to take action isn’t easy. The work that we do with our clients is extensive and includes partnering to ensure that recruitment activities truly are meritocratic and inclusive. This might involve auditing job and person specifications, reviewing marketing material, monitoring candidate diversity or investigating each step of the selection process to mitigate the impact of bias and adopt a more inclusive approach.

This International Women’s Day we’ll be talking to our clients about how they can better attract women – for example, by promoting flexible working options in our job ads and during the recruitment process. Flexible working is often still the preserve of a long-established worker and viewed as a privilege when trust is earned, but if companies are to actively promote these options to potential candidates can they tap into a new pool of people that wouldn’t otherwise have considered working with them?

It will certainly be interesting to see how many of our clients are on board with this and are prepared to try a slightly different approach to set themselves apart from the competition. A diverse and inclusive culture is essential to business success and by expanding the talent pool, companies might be able to unearth new talent that will allow them to reach their potential. By working together and collectively taking action to achieve greater balance, we’ll be able to make a difference.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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