Why your efforts to hire more women are failing ..

The business case for hiring more women  in the workplace has been made, I am not here to litigate it, but in the attempt to achieve it , the story almost always happens this way:

  1. A company puts out a job description for a role and waits about 4 weeks to get applications
  2. They sift through applications and realize there isn’t even one woman in the list.
  3. HR Manager/Hiring Manager panics because (S)he has KPI’s which include making sure there are a number of female applicants.
  4. Someone like me who has access to a network of women, gets a  desperate emails asking us to share with our networks or send recommendations their way. The roles are normally mid-level to executive roles , I rarely get the same desperation for entry level roles.(another blog for another day)
  5. One of two things happen most of the time after we share with our network: *crickets* or they get small trickle of female candidates in and none of them get hired.

This has happened so many times I have actually considered creating a company that supports Companies find and keep  female talent .

As I have mentioned too many times to hiring managers, by the time you send me the desperate email asking to open up my network… IT’S TOO LATE to get the diversity numbers you need.

I have known hiring managers who have deliberately added women who are not necessarily qualified for the role so their pipeline looks diversified, knowing fully well they will not make it through the process.

Hiring and creating a pipeline of female candidate takes more deliberate work than that, here are a few pointers on what you can do to be more proactive for gender parity within the hiring process.

Be Visible and trustworthy to women in your industry: At the very least, be involved with your industry women networks, send speakers, sponsor events to show them that you are happy to be involved with growing the women in your industry .


Find out how the women in your company have traditionally fared? How many women have left your organization in the last 12 months and why did they leave, stories get around and women know which companies to go to.

Organizations can use exit interviews to collect as much feedback as you can and be committed to making the changes necessary by listening to the women that currently work for you.

A couple of years ago I declined to speak at Uber’s Internal Women in Africa event because the story had broken based on blog by ex Uber employee Susan Fowler which detailed damaging allegations of sexual harassment and rampant discrimination, claiming management protected and repeat offender because he was a “high performer” and threatened to fire her for raising concerns.

She has alleged many technical women had fled the company and I was deeply worried that by speaking at their event and on stage the organization would leverage on my reputation and my network in the women technology space as part of a cleanup communication exercise versus actually fixing their internal problems.


image credit :www.insidehighered.com

Be mindful of the Job description text and imagery used, it’s not enough to say ‘women are encouraged to apply’: gender coded words in job descriptions like Ninja , Rock star, aggressively have male connotations and seem to put women off , minimize their use .

This is because it is also well documented that women are most likely to apply for a role if they have at least 80% of role requirements (partly because of conditioning and not wanting to waste time on roles they don’t believe they are qualified for) as opposed to men who will apply to jobs with 10% skill set. 

So instead of generating a long list of requirements, divide your job requirements into a ‘must have list’ and a ‘would like to have list’ and preferable make the must have list .It is also a good idea to have images of both men and women in equal measure on your career pages and job websites.


Consider blind hiring: Major names like HSBC, Deloitte, BBC, and Google are all implementing blind hiring practices to ensure they’re bringing on the best talent.

Blind hiring is a hiring process where the identifying markers in the initial screening process that lend themselves unconscious bias to like name, age, sex are removed and the hiring personnel only has access to the qualifications and experience of the candidate.

In theory it works well in the initial screening but bias can always crawl back in the interview process.


Run programs that attract women: Consider developing a talent pipeline program in house that works even when you don’t have roles available, by enabling your organization to cultivate a database full of CV’s you can tap when you do have roles.


Create and tout policies that are female friendly: What are your maternity and paternity leave policies like, is there work time flexibility, do you provide child care benefits, what are the potential growth policies.

I have had women refuse to leave employers for years simply because their company provided nursery facilities at heavily subsidized cost within company and even doubling of current pay was not attractive enough because of the added convenience ,cost saving and peace of mind it gave her .

Diversify you hiring panel : The more diversity you have on your hiring panel the more there is a likelihood of a successful diverse candidate .