Women Are Shifting the Talent Landscape: Strategies to Successfully Recruiting Them

Women have become the new workforce. There are now slightly more women workers than men, given the recession and the shrinking of the manufacturing and construction industries. They have less unemployment: In January of this year the unemployment rate for men was 8.8 percent, yet for women only 7.9 percent.

Additionally, women account for 51 percent of all workers in high-paying management, professional, and related occupations. There are now more women in management positions than men for the first time in American history, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon. Women are projected to account for 51.2 percent of the increase in total labor force growth by 2018. And, these are not exclusively American trends — they are also trends in Europe and many Asian countries.

More women are attending and graduating from universities. Men make up only 40% of the students in American universities while women are closing in on two-thirds of the university population and receive the majority of college degrees. No one is exactly sure why this is happening but we do know that boys are diagnosed more often with learning disabilities and are more likely to be expelled or incarcerated. Or it may be that men are disengaged and uncomfortable with traditional teaching methods. They often feel able to go off on their own, start a business, or just hang out with friends.

So what does all of this mean for your organization and recruiting?

Obviously there will be a growing number of well-educated women entering the workforce. A wise strategy would be one that began to actively seek them out, engage them in learning more about your organization, and provide them with enticements that are geared to their needs.

Most of our recruiting efforts are traditional, and that generally means weighted in favor of men. We assume that most employees are willing to work a “normal” 8-hour day and a “normal” 40-hour work week. We assume they want bonuses and blocks of vacation time. And we assume they are willing to play the political games that are frequently needed to get ahead. These include those beers after work with the boss, talking sports, cars, and participating in events after work.

All of these may not be good assumptions if you want to stay competitive and get the best and most educated people available.

Here are a few things to consider: 

It’s just good business strategy to hire women. With women becoming the majority of the workforce, it is just common sense to find better ways to attract and engage them. More and more startups are now led by women and more are moving into the ranks of senior leadership.

A number of organizations including HP and IBM have designed specific strategies to attract women. One organization, Cigna, has invested 2 million dollars to recruit and develop executive-level women. Pepperdine University found that the Fortune 500 companies with the best record of promoting women outperformed their competitors by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent.

And, a recent study by Catalyst shows that companies with the highest representation of women in their senior leadership had better financial performance as a group than those with the lowest number of women. Yet, women only account for 14% of the boards of Fortune 500 in the U.S. France and other European countries have now mandated that boards will be 40% female.

Are you finding the women you already have? Many recruiters and hiring managers are not actively seeking out the women already working in their organizations. Internal hiring and development of women are cornerstones of improving your brand image. Each recruiter should focus on making sure that a diverse slate of candidates that includes current female employees whenever possible is presented to hiring managers.

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By making it a policy to help women move up and across the organization you can enhance your brand image and consequently your ability to attract more women.

You need to make sure your brand is friendly to women. Very few organizations take the time to examine their brand messaging to see how it appeals or doesn’t appeal to men and women. Women often feel undervalued, unappreciated, and underserved by recruiters and organizations. There is a subtle expectation that they should react to things and have the same approaches as men do to situations and events.

It is very important to think about the overt and covert messages that come through when someone thinks about your brand. Messages that may appeal more to women than men are those offering flexible work time or that talk about a friendly and collaborative workplace. Socially responsible organizations are also important to many women. Imaging needs to show women in a variety of roles and testimonials and interviews with women showcase what you are doing. Women need to see and hear that their work will be rewarded and appreciated and that the expectations are not less for them than they are for men.

You should relook at all your HR policies and practices. Numerous surveys show that women are looking for very different benefits than men. Some of the specific things they are looking for include job sharing, part-time telecommuting, flexible business hours, and paid and unpaid work interruptions for child care and elder care.

Women are also looking for non-hierarchical organizations with a reputation for collaborative decision-making. If your organization, like so many, has a lot of men at the top this may be a problem. But often lower down there are women managers and women-led teams that offer that collaborative environment. Every recruiter should understand how women contribute to their organization and what roles may be most attractive.

Ignoring women, thinking they are the same as men, assuming we all want to same things are very dangerous practices. Beginning to tailor your strategies and tactics to the dominant workforce makes good sense to me.

(Stats are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics unless indicated otherwise.)

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.


5 Comments on “Women Are Shifting the Talent Landscape: Strategies to Successfully Recruiting Them

  1. These may interst you:


    There once was a time in American history when the thought of women working for complex, multi-national technology companies, giant advertising firms, and massive publishing houses was snickered at behind closed boardroom doors.

    Today, women are running those companies—from some of those very same boardrooms.

    But although women make up over half of America’s labor force, as of 2009, only 12 Fortune 500 companies and 25 Fortune 1000 companies have women CEOs or presidents.

    Catalyst, the not-for-profit New York-based women’s research organization, points out that its data shows a change over the last ten years. In 1998, 11.2% of corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies were women. This percentage rose to a peak of 16.4% by 2005, but has since fallen and in 2008 it rested at 15.7%. While this is progress, Catalyst notes that, at this rate, it would take 40 years for the number of female corporate officers to match the number of male officers.

    Read more: Women CEOs — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenceo1.html#ixzz1KZnU0ztS



    Census data shows that women who work full-time still earn, on average 77 cents for every dollar men earn for performing the same work. This is based on the most recent data released September 16, 2010 for earnings in 2009 and shows that there was virtually no change from the previous year. Based on median earnings of full-time year round workers, women’s earnings were $36,278 and men’s earnings were $47,127. Median earnings for most women of color are even lower. In 2009 the earning for African American women were $31,824, 67.5 percent of men’s earnings (a drop from 67.9 percent in 2008) and Latinas’ earnings were $27,181, 57.7 percent of men’s earnings (a slight drop from 57.9 percent in 2008). Asian American women’s earnings in 2009 were $42,331, 90 percent of men’s earnings, a drop from 91 percent in 2008.

    The wage gap still exists, in part, because many women and people of color continue to be segregated into low-paying occupations. More than half of all women workers hold sales, clerical and service jobs. Studies show that the more an occupation is dominated by women or people of color, the less it pays.

    More information on the wage gap:

    Gender Gap by State (AAUW)
    The Gender Wage Gap 2010 (IWPR)
    The Wage Gap over Time (NCPE)

  2. You’re very welcome, Kevin. It’s disheartening information-there’s a long way to go…..


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