People often ask me to share tips and tricks to promote diversity at the workplace. I’m going to walk you through the methods that allowed me to increase the number of women in my team for each of my roles.
And because it is trendy to do Top 10s, I am starting a series of 10 articles, to explain meticulously, step by step, the mechanism I use, so that anyone, man or woman, can use it at their level.
For the first article of this series, let’s start by the beginning: recruitment.
Or rather: how to recruit more women?
« I would like to hire more women in my team, but I can’t find any. » Who has never heard this infamous excuse?
Indeed, the best way to prevent diversity from increasing is to deny any responsibility and make no changes to the method used to find talent. Denial being just one step before the policy of burying our heads in the sand like an ostrich.
More seriously, if you’ve already had that thought, we’re going to determine together the best path to follow to solve the problem.
- The company’s brand image
First, it’s essential to analyse the image that your company reflects and to ask yourself, in full transparency, if a woman could relate to it. When you work in a typically male-oriented industry, like the ones I’ve worked in (oil & gas and construction), it doesn’t seem that obvious. Yet sometimes, little is needed to change a company’s image, such as ensuring that every publication presents a true diversity, both on the company website and on social media, that the company has published a non-discrimination policy…etc. This underlines the idea that gender equality plays an important role for the company.
This could be out of your reach, but it’s certainly possible to get the message across to HR or the communications department.
2. The job posting
You might be under the impression that changing your company’s image is out of your control. This question remains: What can you do at your level?
This tip is for anyone who manages a team, however small it may be, and who has (or will have) a position to fill. I’ve always managed to have more diversity in my teams, by using a simple trick. When I’m looking for someone new for a role, I always request that there be a true diversity in the candidates selected by HR. The word « request » is not an exaggeration, because I have no issue blocking the recruitment process if it’s not met.
Therefore, HR must receive enough candidates to ensure that there isn’t a unique profile. And we’re going to help them.
The first step is to make sure that the job posting and the vocabulary used is truly inclusive, such as using “man or woman” in the text.
But don’t get too excited, it doesn’t stop there. The topic of diversity has been studied widely and there are a lot of readings online on cognitive biases. It’s thus important to understand them to make sure that your job posting is suitable for everyone.
For instance, with equal qualifications, approximately 20% less women apply for a role. This is a known phenomenon, often a consequence of the way women were raised, leading them to apply to a role only if their qualifications meet 100% of the requirements. A man will more frequently take more risks. Therefore, without lowering the threshold for required skills, it could be beneficial to review the job description to remove skills that aren’t crucial, such as « at least 10 years of experience in that sector » but instead focus in explaining the role in detail.
Women continue to be the main accountable spouse in charge of children’s education and the majority of household chores. Explaining in the job description that the role could have flexible hours, be partially remote, or even be part-time (most jobs are completely doable part-time, at 80% or 90% capacity), would remove an additional obstacle in these candidacies.
If the role is for an entry-level graduate, it’s important to make sure that students who are fresh out of university want to work for your company. It’s not that difficult, but it requires some time. The most efficient way is to find female employees who’d be willing to run regular conferences or presentations on campuses. They could then highlight their company’s gender-inclusive policy in their speech, and how amazing it is to work there as a woman.
There you have it. Thanks to your spectacular job with the job posting and the substantive work in universities, you now have plenty of female candidates.
After this step comes the long-awaited moment of the job interview.
- The job interview
30 years ago, when I decided that I wanted to become a field engineer on an oil rig, the recruiter asked me what my mother thought of my career choice. I had answered « would you ask men this question? No? Then you’ll understand that I refuse to answer it. »
I’m optimist and I’m sure that 30 years later, we’ve made a lot of progress, and that recruiters – apart from very few exceptions, no longer ask inappropriate questions on possible future children for instance, or questions from another era.
But avoiding sexist questions is the bare minimum and is definitely not enough – that’d be too easy.
Our own subconscious biases are a lot more insidious. We all tend to hire people that are similar to us, with whom we have created affinities, and who correspond to the members of our usual network. But is that really the best way to build a team that represents diversity in its way of thinking or approaching problems? And this isn’t about parity, but rather how interesting it is to have people with different backgrounds, nationalities, and opinions within the same team. So it’s important to overcome this bias. Being aware of it is the first essential step, but it’s still not enough. Another way to be more impartial during the interview is to ask very different people to be a part of the recruitment process. And of course, be open and ready to take « risks » to recruit people with unique profiles.
At this point, there’s nothing left but to select a candidate. If at the end of the process, it so happens that the best candidate for the role is a man, then of course hire him! The purpose of this article is to make sure that during the interview process, qualified female candidates were given the opportunity to apply, and not only men. Who knows, this might prevent you from missing out on your company’s next CEO!
But the recruitment part isn’t all of it, and we’ll see together in the next article the best methods to keep the women in your team!