How we helped a client attract a female Executive for a Leadership position.

By Josh Smith

To support diverse, equitable and inclusive recruitment strategies organisations and recruiters can go to great lengths to support such a plan.

  • Address biases
  • De-gender job advertisements
  • Use diverse interview panels
  • Include multiple female candidates in shortlists
  • Use skill-based assessment tasks in the recruitment process
  • Offer flexibility
  • Provide a competitive family policy

I am sure there are more, but these are the main actions that companies can take to secure a diverse hire.  However, in all the research I conducted prior to writing this coupled with our most recent female-only searches, I found very little addressed the approach needing to be taken when dealing with passive candidates (those not actively looking).

For example, so far in 2022 Gibson Watts can evidence a 100% fill rate, with 75% of those searches being filled with a diverse hire.  This includes projects across North America, United Kingdom, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.  However, when we compare female-only projects to those with mixed candidate gender, we can attract more candidates, conduct more interviews, and produce larger shortlists for clients with a mixed gender pool of candidates, even if the female-only projects have larger numbers to begin with.

Why is this?

While women’s journey to getting a new job starts off very similarly to men’s, it diverges when it comes to being proactively recruited.  While both genders browse jobs similarly, they apply to them differently. Research shows that in order to apply for a job, women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%. If women only apply when they feel extremely qualified, this could also indicate they are not pursuing stretch opportunities.  LinkedIn behavioural data backs this up, as women tend to screen themselves out of the conversation and end up applying to 20% fewer jobs than men.

As an executive search company led by a female CEO in Anne O’Donnell, we do all we can to influence diverse hiring at all stages of the recruitment process.  We are aware of the psychological biases and necessities that we must install throughout a process to even be able to have a conversation with a female executive.  To help our clients recruit the best individuals, and provide candidates with the best platform for growth, we have made the following changes to our processes:

  • Survey female candidates to get a better understanding of what they are looking for in a new job, and thus in a job description before talking to them about our opportunity.
  • Specifically explain that our client is actively targeting women.
  • Provide evidence of the existing support our client provides to female employees and any females in Leadership positions.
  • Use female recruiters.
  • Articulate a soft, unbiased overview of the opportunity, with gender neutral terminology.
  • Test what works.

A lack of qualified applicants with diverse backgrounds is a reason commonly given to explain the underrepresentation of women and minority groups in candidate pools, shortlists and hiring decisions. Yet, while employers blame a narrow talent pool, prospective employees with traditionally non-dominant backgrounds cite biased recruitment and selection processes and work settings as barriers to entry or deterrents for diverse candidates.

Research in 2003 and 2004 noted, self-confidence precedes interests and career goals. Women must feel confident in their abilities before their interest is aroused.  Research suggests that when considering their next job females are more risk-averse and have increased levels of anxiety relating to change and uncertainty that a new opportunity can bring, when compared with males.  All understandable, and something we approach with every candidate we speak with and interview.

Having recently run female-only, executive-level search assignments with a modified approach geared towards attracting females we still do not have all the answers to support a diverse, equal, and inclusive strategy.  However, we can demonstrate going to great lengths to provide a diverse solution for our clients, doing all we can to understand the psychological and cultural barriers erected to prevent female executives taking that leap for their next challenge.  It is a long process but one we are keen to tackle with our clients.

If you need any assistance increasing diversity and inclusion within your organisation, please contact a member of our team today, to see how we can help.

Written by Josh Smith, Head of Executive Search Gibson Watts.

Executive Search

Enable positive change by appointing the best leaders and executive teams.

Recruitment Services

Solve recruitment challenges with niche industry expertise and unparalleled support.