why aren’t we hiring more women? It’s a strange question to ask, but to address this topic in full, it’s important to give a brief introduction here.
we specialize in executive search, namely the placement of senior-level professionals across the Life Science, Medical Device, and Energy Sectors. When we started up, there were eight people in the business, but in the four years since we’ve built up to 48 employees across two offices in Leeds and Copenhagen.
When the business started there were a lot of areas in the Medical Device and Life Science space we weren’t involved in, and we were really keen to find candidates to establish a foothold in those markets as quickly as possible. We’ve always placed a great amount of emphasis on our training and, because our policy has always been to hire graduates, we’ve always had faith in the fact that, if candidates are willing, enthusiastic and outgoing, we can turn them into successful specialist head hunters regardless of sector.
The good news is that, clearly, we were right about this. Our growth and low rates of attrition demonstrate the fact that our training works. We’ve been able to keep and develop our staff in what is traditionally a highly competitive industry with sky-high levels of staff turnover, and have subsequently seen those candidates grow and develop a great deal.
However, one challenge that has come to our attention that we are looking to address at the moment is to try and recruit more women into our business.
Aside from just ticking boxes in terms of diversity, there are multiple other benefits to hiring more women. We obviously work with and place a lot of women, and in some industries, we’ve seen our female consultants have a massive amount of success.
We’re well aware of the benefits in the office environment and atmosphere that has more of an even split between men and women can have. We want to capitalize on that. We’re proud of the fact that we give the training, but encourage consultants to do things their own way. We’re sure that more female consultants would be able to introduce a new dynamic, and help us raise the collective bar in terms of our standards and processes. We just want access to them!
Whether you’re recruiting a global head of sales or a graduate looking for their first role out of university, the rule in recruitment is that good people know good people. When we’d hired our first group of candidates for the company, and before we were an established name, we capitalised on the great people we already had in the business to try and find more people to work for us.
However, the majority of that first group were male, and (whilst this may not always be the case) that meant that they were referring more males to us for positions.
Referrals only work up to a certain point though and, as we’ve accelerated our growth, we’ve begun partnering with universities and advertising our vacancies elsewhere. In this instance, the simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of applications that we receive are from males.
Why aren’t we getting enough applications from women?
If we knew that, then we wouldn’t have the issue.
It’s a really tough one to answer, especially without any sort of stereotyping, or tarring lots of people with the same brush, which we obviously have no intention of doing. However, there are a couple of reasons that I think our business may not have the same level of attraction for females as it does males.
Unfortunately, I believe that there is still a stigma surrounding recruitment as a hyper-competitive environment or worse, as something of a ‘boys club’, which would understandably be a turn-off for anyone coming in, never mind just women. What many people haven’t realised is that the best companies are sophisticated high-level businesses, operating with a high level of ethical and moral decorum that creates long lasting client relationships.
Having done a bit of reading on the topic, I came across this article on The Atlantic, regarding women supposedly having less self-confidence in their careers. This piece, written by two prominent female US based journalists for ABC and the BBC respectively. One of the really interesting points raised in the piece is that women may take fewer risks in their career than their male counterparts, which I think could be a contributor to fewer women wanting to give what we do a go.
It’s not a secret that not everyone who works in the recruitment sector went to university with that intention. In fact, on the face of it, what we do is vastly different to the majority of subjects people may have studied at university, although there is obviously a wealth of transferable skills that you can carry from studying into our working environment.
When we first bring candidates into the hiring process, we endeavour to explain to them just how tough the job is, how long the hours are and what the knockbacks can feel like. This could further paint a picture of the position as a risk, especially if it’s not the digital marketing role you thought you’d be doing when you first came out of university.
This is a double-edged sword though. The benefits and perks of our job are equally beneficial to both genders. Our gym memberships, health allowance, free massages, unlimited holidays and great commission schedule should have universal appeal, and should mitigate that ‘risk’ that comes with entering the sector.
However, we obviously don’t have a concrete answer to the question, but it’s something we’re paying more thought to as we move forward.
What are we doing about the gender gap?
It’s difficult to really channel or focus our recruitment to try and alleviate the issue, but we are thinking a little more about things when going about our usual business.
We attend a lot of university careers fairs, and during these we always go to great lengths to try and dispel some of the stereotypes they may have heard about the industry I mentioned earlier, which applied to both genders.
In addition, we’ve begun to reach out to universities we’re partnered with to ask them how we can potentially broaden our intake, perhaps with a move towards more female-dominated subjects.
It’s something that we’re proactively working towards though, and are hopefully making some headway with.
Looking towards September, we’ve got a number of great new graduates joining the business – and I’m pleased to say that half of that intake is female – however, we’re going to continue making a concerted effort to up that ratio in the office.
We’re at a point now where we’re making strides into our recruitment and, for the first time, thinking seriously about attempting to diversify our workforce. But I would be really interested to hear if others had experienced similar issues and, if so, how they had gone about tackling them?