Diversity in the workplace is incredibly important. Diverse life experiences, backgrounds, and educations are the core of a vibrant, innovative, and effective team. Diversity begins much earlier than many managers expect, however; everything from your job title to your requirements list to your targeted advertising plays a role.
If you’re looking to attract more women to apply for your open roles, there are a handful of steps you can take. Here are 18 of them.
1. Promote Real-World Impact
When building up your company brand, you want to position yourself as attractive to the audience you want to attract. It sounds simple, but a lot of psychology goes into it. In particular, you want to portray your company’s real-world impact in a positive light. This is because studies indicate that women have a more prosocial outlook than men in general. Highlight the tangible benefits you’re bringing to the world. For example, a company making self-driving vehicles can discuss lowered emissions, safer driving, and the lives saved via a reduction in accidents.
2. Limit Requirements in Job Listings
Your job listing should have two sections for skills and experience; one for requirements and one for the “nice to have” benefits that make a candidate stand out over others. Make sure to restrict the “required” section to only skills and experience that are truly required to perform in the role.
The reason for this is the confidence gap. Men tend to apply for jobs when they can meet around 60% of the requirements for the role, where women tend to only apply when they know they meet 100% of the requirements. By putting requirements higher than necessary, you suppress the number of women who apply.
It’s worth mentioning that this doesn’t make men any better at the role than women. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write:
“The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women don’t act, when we hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back. But when we do act, even if it’s because we’re forced to, we perform just as well as men do.”
3. Use Gender-Neutral Writing
When writing a job description, a pitch, or any other marketing materials, be sure to use gender-neutral writing as much as possible. When that’s not possible, if you’re targeting women, use the appropriate language. For example, if you’re writing a sample of job duties, saying “the applicant will be responsible for X” is better than “he will be responsible for X”.
Avoid old-style gender “inclusive” writing like using s/he and (s)he throughout your text. Instead, try avoiding pronouns, using gender-neutral “they” pronouns, or even writing in the second person. This guide is an excellent resource for writing in a more gender-neutral way.
4. Make Use of Writing Tools
When writing job advertisements and job listings specifically, and in writing copy that promotes your employer brand, it can be worthwhile to use a tool that analyzes your writing. Gender Decoder is a simple, free tool that is designed specifically for job ads. It uses textual analysis based on this 2011 report to determine how gendered your writing is.
A more advanced tool like Textio can be useful for deeper analysis. This tool analyzes gendered composition but also reviews the average age the writing appeals to, analyzes mindset, and other analysis you don’t see in most writing tools.
5. Include Diversity in Job Imagery
Most job listings have photos that portray what it’s like to work in that role. These images should include people of diverse origins and backgrounds, including an equal display of men and women. Avoid using images of women solely in female-oriented roles and men in male-dominated careers.
Additionally, avoid portraying heavily gendered backgrounds and situations for your imagery. For example, promoting a casual office environment by talking about having a beer on top and having photos of people playing foosball in the break room. Women can certainly enjoy these things as much as men, but it’s a traditionally male-focused set of benefits and can make women applicants feel like they won’t be a good fit in the office.
6. Use Diverse Referrers
One primary source of candidates for many roles, with an emphasis on STEM roles, is referrals from existing employees and recruiters. Referred candidates are an excellent source of new hires, but it turns out there’s a problem. Studies show that:
“The use of referral networks can exacerbate inequality between groups with limited social contact.”
In other words, people tend to have social networks composed of people like themselves and consequently refer other people like themselves. If you already have a diversity problem in your workplace, referred candidates are not likely to help solve that problem. Either focus on diverse referrers or minimize referral candidates as a recruitment channel until your diversity problem has been solved.
7. Consider Incentivizing Diverse Referrals
If referrals are a solid pipeline for new candidates, or if you want to promote more diverse hiring through referrals, you can consider an incentive program. Many companies pay employees a bonus upon hiring someone that they referred. You can pay a larger bonus for successfully referred women and minorities.
While you might initially worry that this becomes an issue of discriminatory hiring practices, it turns out not to be the case. Margaret H. Allen and Mustafa Abul-Jabbar write:
“The distinction lies in recruiting practices versus hiring practices. To be clear, it is improper and illegal to hire someone based on their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, national origin or other protected category. But ensuring that a company has diverse candidates in its recruiting pipeline is not only fair game, it is also strongly encouraged by federal agencies and watchdog organizations, and quite frankly, it is the right thing to do.”
8. Seek and Eliminate Bias in Candidate Evaluation
When evaluating resumes and applications, look for parts of the process where a conscious or subconscious bias might be eliminating minority or female job candidates unfairly. A common example of this is hiring managers judging resumes based on their name before even reading skills and work history.
Whenever you identify an area where bias may be unfairly eliminating candidates, fix it. For example, many modern applicant tracking systems offer the option of anonymizing applications to remove names and identifying information. This can also be done with certain kinds of interviews, particularly where practical skills are involved. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, for example, increased their rate of women hired by conducting “blind auditions” with the applicant behind a screen.
9. Establish a Clear Interview Process
Interviews are another area where subconscious bias can make it into the process. To eliminate this bias, establish a clear set of questions for the interview, and develop a complete rubric for grading the answers to those questions. Make sure to ask every interviewee the same set of questions and judge them on the same set of criteria.
Periodically, it may be worthwhile to review and correlate grading with minority status to make sure your hiring managers aren’t unconsciously biasing the grades they give candidates. If you discover a bias, work to make the rubric more impartial, and offer training to minimize the bias in the future.
10. Look for Help from Tools
Many modern hiring tools have options to help minimize bias and enhance diverse hiring. We already mentioned using a resume anonymizer feature in your applicant tracking system, but that’s far from the only option. You can also, for example, use third-party tools for skills testing that provide anonymized testing and results correlated with the applicant.
To use a developer role as an example, a common interview task is a whiteboard coding assignment. Women traditionally don’t perform as well with a whiteboard assignment, but how often do your developers need to write code on a whiteboard anyway? More often, an “in situ” coding task provided by a tool like HackerRank will be less biased and better at testing the skills of a potential developer anyway.
11. Provide Benefits Relevant to Women
When selling your job opportunity to potential applicants, you want to make sure you’re providing benefits that are relevant to a diverse pool. While career progression and remote work flexibility are common priorities, women might also be looking for benefits like salary transparency, a more flexible work-life balance, family leave, and healthcare.
Above all, a supportive, team-focused environment is one of the best benefits your company can provide.
12. Establish a Diverse Interview Panel
In most businesses, your hiring should be performed through a panel of interviewers, not a single hiring manager. One person can have biases that skew the diversity of your company. A panel is not any less likely to have biases but is more likely to balance out and counteract those biases.
A good interview panel should include an overall hiring manager, a manager of the department the hire would work in, and a third manager whose role is to balance the panel. When you’re looking to hire women, including a woman on the panel is a sure-fire way to ensure that women are more likely to be judged fairly.
13. Hire from Diverse Sources
In many cases, where you’re advertising your job listings is as important as how they are composed. One common example is university recruiting. If you’re looking to hire women in a STEM program, you will want to focus on recruiting from universities that focus on diversity in their STEM programs. You can’t hire women from a program that doesn’t graduate women, after all.
One potentially valuable option is HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). These institutions tend to have a better focus on diversity, from admissions through to graduation and on to their choice in faculty. You can also find lists of universities participating in diversity initiatives, and rankings of institutions by their diverse graduates.
14. Ensure Your Workplace is Safe from Gender Discrimination
Diversity in the workplace goes beyond hiring; you need to ensure that your workplace is safe for women and minorities. Look at retention amongst minority groups, and examine the reasons why minority employees leave. Implement zero-tolerance policies for sexism and harassment.
Examine HR cases in the recent past and look for problem employees and trends. Making your workplace comfortable for everyone helps you maintain not just a diverse workplace, but a reputation for supporting that diversity.
15. Examine a Gender Pay Gap
It’s no secret that a gender pay gap exists. Examine salaries throughout your organization and work to eliminate that gap. If you discover that minorities or women employees are paid less than their white or male counterparts, close that gap with a raise.
Once the pay gap is eliminated, be transparent about both salary policies and salaries. It’s already illegal to prohibit employees from discussing salaries, but you can go one step further by including salary information in job listings.
16. Sponsor Diversity Groups and Initiatives
To some candidates, you can say anything you want, but it’s meaningless unless you put your money where your mouth is. Use business funds to sponsor female-led or diverse initiatives, such as female tech conferences or Girl Geek Dinners.
This has the added benefit of listing your company as a sponsor, so anyone investigating companies that support diversity will find your company, adding to your employer brand.
17. Promote Women’s Stories
Women throughout your organization are encountering challenges and succeeding. Making yourself aware of their stories, and promoting those stories to the public, can give your brand a more diverse and beneficial reputation. For example, Goldman Sachs has a blog on their careers page where they highlight specific employees with a “day in the life” series. They highlight a diverse range of employees for these features.
18. Remember Equal Opportunity Laws
It might be tempting to use Google or Facebook paid advertising, with their very detailed targeting options, to target job ads specifically at women. While this would certainly bring in more female job candidates, it’s also discriminatory. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that targeting ads based on gender, age, and even zip code is a discriminatory practice.
You can run ads that have a slant in writing towards attracting female job applicants, but you cannot make those ads only visible to those groups.
As we venture into a future where diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords, it’s paramount that businesses prioritize and implement strategies to foster a truly diverse workforce. The advantages are multifold, from fostering innovation to better representation in decision-making. While the journey to attracting a more diverse talent pool, especially women, may seem complex, taking steps like those outlined above can make a significant impact.
Need help creating a workplace that mirrors the diversity of our society and leverages the strengths that come with it? Contact us today and learn how we can help.
Page updated on October 14, 2023.