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Uncover your organisation’s full potential by promoting gender equality

By Mike McDonagh, Managing Director of Hays Ireland

Ensuring that our clients have the talent they need to drive their organisations forward – to put it simply – is the reason we get out of bed in the morning. To do this we need to ensure that they have access to the widest pool of talent possible. Of course, today this is increasingly challenging. Skills shortages are growing, and the competition for talent is fiercer than ever. Regardless of industry or profession, it has long been clear to us that diversity and inclusion is an absolute imperative in order to attract and retain the best employees. What’s more, there are a number of very simple steps we believe all employers should take in order to ensure this.

It’s 2019: isn’t everyone embracing diversity?

In our recent Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion Report 2019, only 44% of respondents said they trust their organisation’s leaders to deliver change on the diversity and inclusion agenda, and 53% of respondents said their progression has been limited by their gender. It should go without saying that these figures would no doubt have painted a much bleaker picture had this survey been taken 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. So, it is getting better (and in fact, I think some companies are good at this but don’t even realise it), but there’s clearly still huge opportunity in improving the numbers.

So, what can you do?

It starts with awareness. An overwhelming majority of the organisations we work with have made huge strides when it comes to setting a strong diversity and inclusion agenda over recent years. Most organisations recognise that their responsibilities towards diversity and inclusion reach beyond legal and statutory requirements. They understand the benefits of recruiting from as diverse a demographic base as possible, as well the importance that most employees now place upon working in an inclusive workplace culture.

Yet it is still important to identity where your outstanding diversity opportunities lie. We work with organisations to help them understand how their recruitment strategies can help take advantage of these opportunities. Understanding what motivates different genders will help them to attract the best talent. Having policies and processes in place to support employees of all genders to achieve balance will ultimately help companies to keep their best people.

Having a strong employer brand, which accurately portrays a diverse and open culture, is key to attracting the best talent. For example, having training programmes in place specifically tailored to helping those who identify as women develop, putting schemes in place to raise the profile of leading women, and offering support for women returning to work after a career break are all signs of an employer that promotes gender equality. Making everybody aware of the opportunities and ensuring that women aspire to the most senior positions will also help.

What five things can make a difference to gender equality in your organisations?

1. Understand where your gaps are – whether it is across particular levels or types of roles, you need have a clear picture of the make-up of your workforce and your skills needs.

2. Convey a culture that speaks to women – the motivators for men and women are often different. If you want to attract women, will your culture appeal to them, and how do you showcase this? Have you audited your recruitment materials to ensure your language is free of gender stereotypes, and do you know how to mitigate the impact of unconscious bias during the hiring process?

3. Put development programmes in place that are tailored specifically to women – you need to have the right training programmes in place to allow women to acquire the skills, particularly the soft skills, they need to upskill and continue to develop.

4. Celebrate the successes of women – support their networking, help women within your organisation to raise their personal brand and promote these achievements on social media to reach prospective employees too.

5. Ensure women aspire to the most senior jobs within your organisation – even with the right structures and processes in place, women need to want to get to the top.

Limiting it to just five key areas isn’t easy. The work that we do with our clients is extensive and includes partnering to ensure that recruitment activities are truly meritocratic and inclusive. This might involve auditing job and person specifications, reviewing marketing material, monitoring candidate diversity or investigating each step of the selection process to mitigate the impact of bias and adopt a more inclusive approach.

Balance for better

This International Women’s Day we’ll be talking to our clients about how they can better attract women – for example, by promoting flexible working options in job ads and during the recruitment process, changing the language used, and making sure that companies are aware of the threat of unconscious bias. Flexible working is often still the preserve of a long-established worker and viewed as a privilege when trust is earned, but if companies are to actively promote these options to potential candidates can they tap into a new pool of people that wouldn’t otherwise have considered working with them?

It will certainly be interesting to see how many of our clients are on board with this and are prepared to try a slightly different approach to set themselves apart from the competition. Of course, having a diverse and inclusive culture is not only about hiring more women. It’s about building a working environment where everyone feels included and respected, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or a visible disability, but also, less visible traits such as sexual orientation, hidden disability, personality type, background and education.

A diverse and inclusive culture is essential to business success and by expanding the pool of talent they hire from, companies might be able to unearth new talent that will allow them to grow their potential. By working together and collectively taking action to achieve greater balance, we’ll start to make a difference.

Although we are starting to see improvements in gender diversity, we all have a part to play to continue this journey. View our diversity page for more insights from Hays experts, and to get the latest Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion report.

About this author

Mike joined Hays in 2002 and lead the Accountancy & Finance, Construction & Property, Office Support, HR, Procurement, Executive and Multilingual teams before becoming the Managing Director of Hays Ireland.

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