The conversation around how to create true equity and equality for women in the workplace has only ramped up in recent years – not only in HR teams, but from the board level down. At Michael Page Human Resources, we have seen that companies prioritising Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) retain top talent and achieve success.

In our recent webinar, Embracing Workplace Equity: International Women's Day 2023, we hosted DE&I and HR experts to discuss recruitment strategies which drive equality in the workplace. Speakers included:

  • Bolu Faseun, Senior Manager - Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, PageGroup
  • Nuria Munoz, Head of Talent Sourcing, Microsoft
  • Emma Cashmore, DE&I Director, International, Meta
  • Aaisha Knights-Ihediwa, Chief People Officer, LMAX Group
  • Doug Rode, Managing Director, UK and Ireland, PageGroup

Watch the full webinar below:

For an overview of their discussion and the actionable insights they recommended, keep reading. 

Equality vs equity: What’s the difference?

First, we need to address an important question: what’s the difference between equality and equity? 

Essentially, equality means giving everybody the same, irrespective of their needs. Meanwhile, equity is realising sometimes people need something slightly different to be able to perform on the same level. 

So how should businesses approach these distinct priorities?

Community is key

When it comes to attracting female talent, Nuria says: 

Advertising on social media is not enough. Of course, businesses should be using social platforms so that women can identify with other women already in their workforce. But attracting talent is also about creating community. It’s not just saying ‘Hey, this is my role, come and join us.’ It’s also about what they’re going to find when they’re there – that is the key.

Ensuring that your culture and workplace are easy to research will help applicants to discover the community you have built and understand the environment they would be working in. Will they feel psychologically safe, or isolated? It’s important that jobseekers can find the answer to this question.

Build internal culture – then perfect your messaging

Company websites or social media accounts that do not look inclusive will be a turnoff for female candidates. But to truly resonate with diverse talent, it’s important that your external messaging reflects real diversity and equity within your organisation. Bolu comments:

I don’t care how much you pay in advertising on a diversity job board. If I go on your website and everybody in the pictures is all male or all white – then there’s no representation for me, there’s nothing that makes me think, ‘This is a company where women will thrive'.

Doug further emphasises that it is vital to “practise what you preach” internally, and that you should be able to talk about your approach to DE&I externally.

Create accessible job descriptions

Bolu highlights that women are less likely to apply for a job unless they feel they are a 100% fit. Given this, employers will need to be thoughtful in the way they recruit if they want to attract female candidates. She recommends the Preference, Tradition, Requirement (PTR) approach.

Every time a manager gives me a job description saying, ‘These are the things I need’, right next to them they need to write: Is it a preference, is it a tradition, or is it a requirement to do the job?

Meanwhile, Nuria recommends hiring managers ask themselves the following questions:

  • How much is your job description asking for?
  • Are you using inclusive words? 
  • Are applicants able to see the successes of your female employees?

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Proactivity is key in male-dominated sectors

While STEM-based sectors remain dominated by men, employers have an important role in ensuring that these positions are accessible to women. According to Emma, it starts with education:

More women are studying STEM, but they are dropping out as well. Is there something employers could do about this? For instance, can employers contact some of their target universities to ask how they could help, whether by sponsoring people or building relationships with students? When people are struggling, this is when you make those human connections.

There are also more creative ways to rectify the gender imbalance in tech. Aaisha explains that LMAX Group is hiring women into non-tech roles before giving them the opportunity to retrain:

We’re looking at coding camps, Udemy, and all sorts of other tools to get women interested in that tech side if they’re not traditionally from that background.

The importance of allies: Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

As a leader at PageGroup, Doug that feels a big part of his role is to understand what different team members from different backgrounds and at different life stages are going through. He notes the importance of implementing organisational change that can help people deal with whatever they might be facing – and crucially, of remaining open and continuing to learn.

A lot of learning comes from going out and talking to people. It’s really important to get comfortable being uncomfortable, finding out more about people and their challenges and perspectives. There was a big learning piece for me around understanding that, even if you feel you’re being supportive, sometimes you’re doing things which are unhelpful.

Bolu notes that awareness and knowing where to direct people who are dealing with personal issues are key for allies: 

If you have people in your team who are facing personal issues, just being aware of them is valuable. You don’t have to be an expert, but also make sure you know how to point your people in the right direction if there’s something you don’t know or you don’t understand fully.

Equitable recruitment: Encouraging women to apply for leadership roles

When it comes to the next generation, it’s not just about hiring, but empowering people to go into education in traditionally male-dominated industries like STEM. Nuria says that, once women are in roles, employers must generate environments they can feel confident in and grow in.

The panel also agreed that organisations should look at how to support women at the educational stage. Bolu suggests holding more open days at colleges and secondary schools, when female students are choosing their subjects, to give people more of an insight into what a career in more male dominated areas can look like.

Employers also have a big opportunity to help women, and talent from other underrepresented backgrounds, excel in the workplace through internal hiring and promoting. If you have a position open, rather than immediately going external, think about whether more junior employees could be ready to step up. 

What’s next?

It was a lively and broad discussion, and the topics discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gender equity in the workplace. To learn more about how you can create a working environment which enables your people to thrive, download our free Employee Value Proposition eBook: 

eBook: Revamp your EVP In 2023

If you’re looking to hire HR professionals capable of driving positive DE&I outcomes, or want to hire inclusively in any other function, get in touch with the team today:

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