Gender Equality in Recruitment: The Problem’s at the Top

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) has become a key discussion point for board members and wider leadership teams. It has always been an important factor, but the amount of discussion and noise around this has got louder, and meant it cannot be ignored.

People want to join diverse and inclusive environments, and it is clear to see that the recruitment industry is diversifying when it comes to gender. What was once a heavily male dominated sector has become much more balanced. There are more female led recruitment businesses than ever but it does still sit at 16.8%. 

Using LinkedIn Talent Insights and looking at the UK, the balance is 50:50 (male: female) for professionals in the ‘staffing and recruiting’ industry.  However, if you delve deeper, at Director level it is 66:34 (male heavy). This is where the term ‘boys club’ has derived from and although it is improving, if it’s a ‘boys club’ at the top, females are still going to struggle to ‘get-in’ or feel comfortable breaking through the door. 

What is causing the imbalance? 

  • Historically gender bias: the industry has been known to be male-dominated, this has meant there is an uphill battle to change this. 
  • Lack of diverse initiatives in place: Without proactive efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, the representation of women at the board level may remain low.
  • Role models: it’s a vicious cycle, but we need to get woman a seat at the table to inspire future generations and junior team members to see it’s possible. 
  • Flexibility: Many woman are balancing being a mother, caring for parents or other responsibilities outside of work. This does not mean they shouldn’t have a seat at the table, but it does mean the require businesses to offer better flexibility to manage both – if this isn’t available, for some it’s impossible to make that jump. 
  • Maternity/paternity: invest in your people and re-visit your maternity policy. Giving staff the support needed to grow their family and investing in their ‘time-off’, will build loyalty and respect for your organisation. It will also make it financially viable for them to return to work. 
  • Confidence: Studies show that women rarely apply for promotions if they don't have 100% or close to 100% of the skills listed for the job. On the other hand, men will apply if they have about 60% of the skills.
  • Unconscious bias training: helping your team and senior leaders (especially those interviewing) to recognise their unconscious bias, will immediately help in creating a more equitable and inclusive hiring process, and therefore team. 

Business owners understand the financial gains that come with being a truly DE&I business. It is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ or a ‘fluffy’ concept that can be set aside. Building a DE&I business will deliver results, directly impact growth and ultimately, the overall future success of the company. Studies by McKinsey & Company find that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially, with a direct correlation identified between a diverse workforce and higher profits: companies with over 30% female executives tend to outperform those with only 10%-30%, and the latter group outperforms companies with fewer than 10% or no women executives at all.

It is brilliant to see the recruitment industry is going in the right direction, having the workforce more balanced will be driving results. Diverse and inclusive environments not only foster creativity and drive innovation, but they create a workplace that people want to be a part of, where individuals can be equally challenged and recognised, and ultimately, thrive. However, more needs to be done to improve the gender balance in the boardroom. 

What can businesses be doing to improve their DE&I culture?

  • Nurture and commit to a respectful workforce. Encourage complete candour and call others out for inappropriate behaviour or language. Challenge those if they would have reacted in a certain manner if the same comment came from a male leader.
  • Eliminate the gender pay gap and ensure the business offers flexibility to give woman the platform to achieve their goals. 
  • Make sure when woman are in the room, it is not a ‘boys club’ – think about the ‘banter’ and conversation and make sure everyone is included. 
  • Public recognition, to inspire others to reach their potential.
  • Make sure any team-building activities or company events are inclusive for all. 
  • Research from ‘Great Place to Work’ has uncovered the top 3 critical themes which the UK’s most inclusive workplaces are focussing on. So if these areas aren't on your people agenda, consider moving tbhem up the list: 1. Talent Development & Leadership, 2. Pay & Benefits and 3. Workload Stress. 

What are the Fruition group doing to support this?

Networking is crucial for career advancement, and industries with low female representation may have fewer networking opportunities for women. Research shows that limited access to influential networks can hinder women's chances of reaching board-level positions, and with so many recruitment companies lacking female leaders to look-up to, work with and learn from, we want to build rectify this! 

Introducing, Females of the Future 

Females of the Future is our new event series. Our vision, is to build a community where we can learn from, develop, inspire and support our peers in the recruitment industry. We will bring influencers and professionals to speak and share knowledge and insights! In addition to regular events, members of the Females of the Future community will benefit from:

  • Exclusive access to an online group where members can ask questions and seek advice from other members.
  • ‘Leaders to Lean on’ mentoring programme, where Directors across all areas of recruitment will offer their time, advice, share experiences, and simply support those looking to progress in their career and climb that ladder faster!

For our first event, we have Kirsten Brumfitt, Founder of Onion Consulting. Boasting over 10 years experience in people focussed positions, Kirsten has moved up the ranks, racking up a weath of experience and insights which she will share. Kirsten will talk about not just getting a seat at the table, but get your voice heard!

I will also be speaking (Sarah Pawson, Founder and Managing Director at Fruition IT and Fruition Consulting), sharing my personal career journey; from being a top biller, managing IVF and full-time work, launching a business… and a second partner business, receiving PE investment of such significance it’s in the top 0.15% in the industry, and still managing to be a hands-on parent of twins.

Sign up here!

Subscribe to our newsletter