How We Can Bring Women Back to Work

Despite the fact that we know women make up the largest portion of consumers in the world and have more power and influence than ever, women are leaving the workforce in droves. The conversation with these women begins with talent acquisition, where leaders have the opportunity to make an impact on this.

Talent acquisition is on the front lines. You are the window into organizational culture, brand, and provide the value proposition to the potential candidate. You are the link between the needs of the organization and the needs of the individual. So where have we gone wrong?

Womens’ needs are different. Our wiring, our emotional EQ, our ability to establish relationships and think systemically is unlike our male counterparts. After over 18 years in corporate America I have learned something very interesting, and in truth, disheartening. Women often put all of their energy and effort in trying to compete with men versus appreciating their own unique capabilities. Women try to fit into a mold they were never cut out for. Many are losing their authenticity and purpose, and sacrificing their values to meet expectations that are not inherently natural. The result is burnout, stressing out, and eventually walking out.

One of the things I will cover at this year’s ERE conference in Atlanta is how talent acquisition can more effectively recruit women by recruiting the whole person — not just what they do, but who they are. Outlined below are a few points that will get you thinking until we meet in October.

Be aware of bias: We all have bias. It’s natural. The key is to be aware of this bias. Ask yourself how you view women and their contribution in the workforce. Ask yourself what the business needs and how hiring great female talent can close critical gaps. Remember, your own behavior and attitude is the first exposure to the candidate experience.

Linking values to business: The internal values, motivations, and needs that women have are a unique differentiator and have been proven to drive organizational impact. How often do you ask interview questions around examples of building cross-functional relationships, coaching people, and helping others to evolve, giving back to the community or their prior organization? These are values that align with the bottom line; not just warm and fuzzy, they actually matter! 

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Identify a new sourcing strategy: If you really take the time to proactively look out into the market, you will find exceptional women doing exceptional things. To truly source great female talent, a strong sourcing strategy needs to be identified that includes scouting talent at conferences to see who is speaking, who is honored, and which females are making a real difference. There are also women to be sourced who are volunteers and board members who are actively contributing their free time to matters of the heart. I don’t know about you, but I want someone on my team who gives freely of their time and effort to make a difference.

Define a powerful value proposition: Assuming fair compensation and benefits, women join organizations for culture and environment. Understand and define what your value proposition is as it relates to women. Why do women join your organization? Why do they stay? What unique opportunities for growth are provided for women and how are women recognized within the organization?

Talent acquisition sets the tone for attracting and hiring great female talent. Each candidate interaction is an opportunity to advance the agenda and use the unique capabilities that women possess to drive organizational success.

Irene Ortiz-Glass is founder and CEO of Leadership Advisory Group, LLC. With experience in running both global talent management and a global leadership practice for two large Fortune 500 organizations, she is uniquely positioned to serve her clients. She provides integrated talent strategy, leadership development, executive coaching, and HCM technology expertise to her clients. She has deep expertise in working with clients in the high-technology sector, pharmaceutical, professional services, and retail.

Most recently she worked for SAP leading the retail practice for cloud technology.




12 Comments on “How We Can Bring Women Back to Work

  1. Excellent post, especially the reminder on bias. TA is stronger when we review and interview for inclusion of candidates vs. exclusion.

    1. Was wondering that myself. I’m not saying it’s not true, but I haven’t seen any evidence or even other articles about this, and you’d think it would be written about pretty widely. And, truth be told, if it is true, and the reasons they’re leaving are voluntary, more power to them. It’s important all people have freedom of choice, not necessarily that they make the choice you, I, this author, or anyone else agrees with.

      1. Thank you, I totally agree that choice is important. However, I believe we are missing a bigger group of women who are not convinced that we can support their unique needs. They give up before they even investigate. I am convinced we need to support women more proactively by providing them with skill building in areas such as confidence, managing politics, negotiation and leadership.

        1. I would agree with that, but where I think you’re wrong is that they are right. Corporate America could meet their needs relatively easily, and at low cost most likely, but they simply won’t meet those needs because they feel they don’t have to, and that doing so would be ‘giving’ people things they didn’t earn. They won’t look at it in terms of compensation, or opening up the candidate pool to make hiring easier, because the culture in the US dictates that you’re “lucky to have a job,” and you should just shut your mouth and work and be happy they’re bothering to pay you for it, however begrudgingly. Corporate America is now, and likely always will be, of the mind that the world should be beating down its doors to work there on terms Corporate America dictates. They have no conception of having to earn or attract employees, they think they’re owed employees. It’s the same reasoning behind the reluctance to hire people with disabilities because they need – god forbid! – a special keyboard or something.

          In reality it’s a minimal investment which likely buys you a great employee with a ton of loyalty because they know how hard it is to get a job when you need ‘special’ accommodations that few if any are willing to make. Yet most companies run at the thought of it, not because of cost which is minimal to nonexistent, but because culturally they’ve been bred to think any such accommodation is tantamount to theft from the company somehow, that anyone who wants or needs anything to be even marginally different than Corporate America dictates is a ‘troublemaker’ and is best avoided. Anything other than 9 to 5 hours? Get lost. Have a kid? Too bad. Need to leave for chemo therapy? Screw you, you’re fired. And yeah, that last one is a real example, as in it happened. Probably way more than once, I only know of one incident personally. Need to see your kid in the ER but don’t have enough ‘allowed time’ accrued in your ‘bucket’? You’re fired. And yeah, again, real life example.

          Point being, many of these women you speak of are right to fear Corporate America’s willingness to meet nonstandard requirements for work.

    2. Was wondering that myself. I’m not saying it’s not true, but I haven’t seen any evidence or even other articles about this, and you’d think it would be written about pretty widely. And, truth be told, if it is true, and the reasons they’re leaving are voluntary, more power to them. It’s important all people have freedom of choice, not necessarily that they make the choice you, I, this author, or anyone else agrees with.

    3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reads that women leaving the workforce has soared from 40 million in 2000 to over 49 million today. If you research you will find a lot of data on women leaving the workforce. More importantly you will see this research supported in blogs and chats related to the topic. Our firm has worked with over 200 women who share that it has become “too hard” to work in corporate america.

  2. MR, et al: The fact of the matter is, the world IS beating down our doors to work here (in the U.S.)

    That’s what gives companies the power they have.
    Let’s face it.

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