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How to Recruit and Retain Women in Leadership Positions

11 months ago by

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The fight for gender equality in Australian workplaces has come a long way in the 21st century but it’s far from over!

Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, making it difficult for many to break through the glass ceiling. Although women make up 51% of total employees in Australia, just 19.4% of CEO roles and 32.5% of key management jobs are held by women.

There is a solid business case for making the recruitment and career development of women a priority. After all, the companies that do more to support women in leadership positions tend to outperform their competitors. ASX-listed companies with female representation of more than 10% on their board were able to increase their market value by 4.9%.

So, what can you do to grow your organisation’s female workforce and support women in leadership roles? We’ve highlighted the most impactful strategies for improving gender equality in the workplace.

Tips for Recruiting Women into Leadership Roles

Set diversity targets

Working towards specific, measurable and realistic diversity goals is a powerful way to mobilise your recruitment resources. For every leadership role, aiming for 50% women on the candidate shortlist is a good place to start.

Pay extra attention to areas of the business or specific roles where female representation is low. Get hiring managers and anyone else involved in recruitment on the same page, so everyone can work towards meeting diversity targets.

Remember, more women in the leadership team make it easier to hire women employees across all levels of the organisation!

Refine your recruitment messaging

Language matters, especially in job postings. Ensuring that job descriptions and advertisements are gender-neutral can encourage more female candidates to apply. Avoid using phrases that are traditionally coded as masculine in job ads, such as ‘driven’, ‘strong’ and ‘competitive’. Using job ad language analyser tools, such as Gender Decoder, can help detect any biased language that creeps into job descriptions, however subtle it may be.

Employer brand is just as important. Can you demonstrate why your company is a great place for women to work? If women are applying for a leadership role in your organisation, what will their perception of the workplace culture be when they look at the company’s website and social media?

Sharing the successes of your female employees online is a compelling way to highlight what inclusivity looks like in practice.

Address unconscious bias

Unfortunately, biases and stereotypes about women do persist in some workplaces. Providing unconscious bias training to hiring managers is an effective way to uncover and weed out any relevant issues that could be hampering recruitment efforts.

Another way to help more women make it through the recruitment process for senior positions is to ensure interview panels are gender-balanced.

Offer competitive remuneration and benefits

Compensation and benefits are always important factors for attracting and retaining talent, and you should give this the appropriate consideration.

The gender pay gap is 13.3% in Australia, according to official data. Advertising a fair and equitable salary package for leadership roles is essential for closing the gap, especially in industries where women are historically underrepresented.

When advertising new positions, emphasise any benefits that can meet the needs of women in the workplace, such as flexible work arrangements, paid parental leave and comprehensive health and wellness programs.

Tips for Retaining Female Leaders

Review and retool flexibility policies

Women often face additional pressure to balance their leadership roles with family and personal responsibilities, which can create stress and limit their availability at work. Job flexibility plays a critical role in attracting new talent and retaining women in senior positions in the long term.

Policies that support flexible working and additional leave can address many of the root causes of the challenges women face as they climb the ladder. Take the time to review policies so they are genuinely accommodative of women’s needs.

Identify and mentor high-potential employees

Good succession planning can help companies define clear paths towards leadership roles for women. Targeted support, including training, coaching and mentoring will help high-potential employees develop their leadership skills.

Creating formal mentoring programs to connect women with senior leaders can help bridge the confidence gap and encourage people to aim high.

Build supportive networks

Women may have limited access to informal networks and connections that are essential for advancement and leadership opportunities. This issue is magnified in industries with a tradition of ‘boys club’ workplace cultures.

One way to break the mould is to facilitate women’s networks and groups for a more supportive environment. Organising networking events and employee resource groups (ERGs) can enable women to forge new connections, learn from colleagues and feel supported as professionals. Networking doesn’t have to be formal – an online chat channel, weekly lunch or regular video meeting can create the right space for people to come together.

Seek out women’s voices:

No strategy to hire and retain more women in leadership roles is complete without an ongoing dialogue with the women in your organisation. Do these women feel heard? Seek out their input on issues that affect them at work.

Encouraging women to speak up during meetings is also important for fostering a culture of inclusivity. Wherever possible, get feedback from female employees and act on the issues that are raised.

Achieving True Gender Equality

To make the path of advancement for women more accessible, focus on strategies and actions geared towards recruitment and development. Intentional goals and actions can kickstart progress and allow for real strides towards gender equality in the workplace.

Working with a trusted recruitment provider gives you access to essential guidance on building your strategies for supporting women in leadership. At peoplefusion, our extensive industry experience can help you unlock new approaches for hiring female talent and finding great leaders. Contact our team today to start the journey.