By Meaghan Carlson of FlashFunders
Effective hiring procedures are key to businesses growth. However, when it comes to attracting female applicants, these processes are fundamentally flawed at many organizations. One surprising common factor that has stood out to me over the years is the lack of females outside of communications focused roles spanning every industry from creative agency to corporate tech giant. I have been lucky enough to work alongside many successful career women in the paid media, public relations, and social media verticals. Sadly, when I think back to all of the talented Strategists, Analysts, and Managing Partners, the number of kick ass women is a much sparser list.
At first I thought that it was a coincidence, but after recently posting a job for a mid level Digital Strategist to join my FlashFunders’ marketing team, the results were staggering. Out of 158 applicants, less than one third of the applicants were female, compared with Communications Specialist and Manager roles I’d posted earlier in the year, which received nearly half female applicants. Sadly these meager ratios are even higher than what I’ve heard for similar roles at peers’ companies. Despite my thoughtful crafting of the job description and that I, as a woman, acted as the hiring manager, the fact that women are 40% less likely than men to apply to jobs where they don’t meet 100% of the outlined qualifications remains unchanged.
While I’m not a recruiter by trade, I do have a track record for spotting rising talent as a department head, retaining team members, and hiring female employees. Regardless of whether you’re a female or male hiring manager, I have a handful of personal insights and best practices for striking a gender balance within your applicant pool and organization across all disciplines.
Don’t underestimate the value of a carefully crafted job description.
How the job is framed in the initial posting is of paramount importance to the quality and equal gender participation of applicants. The best candidates will be the ones who thoroughly absorb the outlined responsibilities and qualifications and come prepared with specific examples of their relevant experience to meet them. In order to come across favorably with female applicants from a recruiting perspective take the following tips into serious consideration:
1. Be realistic about the job requirements– Move any “nice-to-have’s” out of the requirements section and call them out separately. Women are generally less likely to apply if you state “financial industry experience” within the requirements section rather than if you include “bonus for financial industry experience.” Unfortunately, skipping this crucial step may skew your overall applicant ratio, as male candidates are more likely to put their name in the hat for jobs in which they only meet 3/10 of the specified qualifications versus a woman’s 7/10.
2. Attract applicants with a solid company introduction and highlight employee perks– Free beer and ping pong may sound great to a recent male graduate looking to break into a tech career, but some female applicants may care more about mentorship programs and flex schedules. Aim to strike a balance with perks that appeal to everyone and don’t forget that how you present your company is just as important as the role itself in attracting candidates.
Communicate your hiring objectives upfront to partners.
In the event that you’re working with a Human Resources team or a professional recruiter to source candidates, make sure to communicate the goal of an equal pool of female and male candidates. In my past interactions with professional recruiters, they seemed surprised at this request, but keep in mind that more female applicants is the first step towards equal gender representation within an organization. Also, the more hiring managers request female applicants from human resources partners, the more it will become engrained in the overall recruitment culture. If nothing less, your request could help to incentivize recruiters to expand their personal network of marketable female candidates and in turn broaden females’ exposure to more organizations overall.
Sell your company as an attractive place for women throughout hiring interactions.
Within and beyond the job description be conscientious to use gender-neutral language. So often I hear executives describe their target audience or potential investors as males or as the persona “Joe” which can sometimes be a red flag for a female applicant. Be careful to replace “him” and “he” with “they” or “she or he” in an effort to make the work environment feel more accessible to all genders in the organization. This also rings true for your customers – Presenting women on your website in the form of testimonials and photos will make the product feel more relatable to a broader audience.
Of course if you’re Dollar Shave Club or a similar company with an all male target, this may not be as relevant, but these are important factors to emphasize throughout crafting the job description and the interview process. Additionally, when explaining the business and diving into the role’s responsibilities, aim to highlight influential women within the organization and incorporate examples of females in leadership, stakeholders, customers, partners and more. This will reinforce that your company acknowledges the benefit a woman’s perspective has on the bottom line and make female applicants more confident that the potential role will be respected and valued within the organization.
Seek help from your network to broaden the pool of applicants.
This one probably goes without saying, but one of the best ways to attract qualified female candidates is through your own networking efforts. If you’re a female hiring manager, aim to get involved with women in business organizations or tap social groups and LinkedIn hacks. Regardless of your gender, try to network with females outside of your company who may have colleagues that would be interested in future career opportunities. So often a position is filled by an acquaintance of an employee or a reference from a friend, so remember that broadening your pool of female applicants goes beyond the limited timeframe when you’re actively hiring for a new position.
All in all there is still much work to be done in order to bridge the gap between males and females in the workplace, but starting at the top of the funnel with a broad applicant pool could help to minimize the void of women in leadership roles. Additionally, there is plenty of research that supports the fact that companies with greater diversity in senior management have higher returns on equity, higher valuations, better stock performance, and higher payout of dividends. While there is a concerted effort within many sectors to make this a reality, it will take hiring managers like you and I to implement this beyond a human resources initiative and embed it within the culture of our organizations.
Meaghan Carlson is the Director of Marketing & Brand Strategy at Santa Monica-based equity crowdfunding platform FlashFunders. Before joining FlashFunders, Meaghan rose through the ranks to become the youngest Brand Director at Mistress Creative, an award-winning brand agency, leading major marketing campaigns for Disney and PayPal. As the only female on FlashFunders’ executive team, Meaghan has used her digital marketing and brand strategy skills to successfully help launch and grow FlashFunders from the ground up. Further contributing to the greater startup ecosystem, Meaghan is a published thought leader in top-tier publications, often researching and writing on widely discussed topics in venture capital, small business, millennial trends, and female leadership empowerment.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.