Women hold more than half of American jobs. Yet, they make up just 27 percent of executive and senior-level management in S&P 500 companies. Meanwhile, a mere 8.1 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female chief executives. This widespread lack of female leadership indicates a major gender gap in corporate America.
However, if employers were to invest in their female employees and intentionally attract female candidates for leadership roles, they could close this gap and benefit their bottom line in the process.
Generally, women foster a highly productive work environment, improve brand reputation, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase profitability in the long term. Thus, if you want a competitive edge and better returns, you must get women interested in open leadership positions. Here are a few ways human resource professionals and talent acquisitions can do just that.
Offer Professional Development Plans
Women are just as likely as men to have an interest in promotions and leadership opportunities. However, few ever express their interest because they feel like they must achieve perfection before applying for management positions. Companies should stress the importance of ongoing learning to discourage these beliefs.
By offering professional development plans and advertising them to potential candidates, you can attract women looking to grow into leadership positions. Moreover, you can encourage current employees to engage in these programs so you can recruit from within and retain top female talent.
Design a Mentorship Program
Women have lost a total of 5.4 million jobs since the start of the pandemic—one million more job losses than men. Now, many of these women are struggling to re-enter the workforce. To do so, they’ll need guidance and constructive feedback, and mentors offer precisely that.
In addition to reintegrating women into the workforce, a robust mentorship program can also increase pay grades. One in four employees who participates in a mentorship program receives a salary-grade change compared to only five percent of workers who don’t participate.
Thus, designing a comprehensive program may be key to attracting women leaders and turning them into mentors, too, so they can grow their leadership skills even more.
Recruit From Within
If you managed to retain your female workforce through the pandemic, consider recruiting from within. Odds are good you already have a few viable candidates, especially if they’re engaging in professional development and mentorship programs. Since they’re already familiar with the company, promoting these women will ensure an easy transition to new leadership. They’ll also require less training, which can certainly benefit your bottom line, as they can fulfill their responsibilities much sooner than an outside hire.
Provide Women-Centered Health Care
Despite an ever-narrowing pay gap, women still earn less and receive less health coverage than their male counterparts. Cost-sharing also remains higher for employees in predominately female companies, particularly for family coverage. Since women often assume caretaking roles and have little time to prioritize their own health, companies could stand to offer more affordable coverage.
Offering women-centered health care is another excellent way to exceed expectations and attract more female candidates than your competitors. Provide maternity coverage and pre- and post-natal services and know how to advertise these benefits in job postings. Even if the leadership position pays less than they’d like, many women would be hard-pressed to pass up an opportunity to get free or discounted coverage.
Cover Child Care Expenses
Due to a shocking lack of affordable child care options, many mothers must choose between having a career and raising kids. Others have had no choice but to reduce their work hours to take care of their kids. Of course, this work-life “balance” doesn’t leave much time for career growth or leadership development.
Thus, if companies want to attract more female candidates for leadership positions, they should offer free or reduced-cost child care. Currently, just three in 10 employers offer access to such services, so there’s certainly room for improvement.
Support Flexible Schedules
Nearly half of women have become much less or somewhat less likely to reenter the physical workplace compared to September of 2020. Ultimately, their decision to stay home comes down to a lack of flexibility. As more companies return to in-person work arrangements, women and mothers, in particular, continue to look for employers that offer remote and hybrid positions.
You can meet—and exceed—their expectations by embracing flexible schedules and promising remote or semi-remote positions to those in leadership. Strong paid and unpaid leave plans may also convince busy moms and women caretakers to apply for management roles. Communicate these benefits in job listings and interviews to attract top talent and effectively grow your candidate pool.
Positioning your job listings and advertisements for maximum exposure is key to attracting potential candidates, so where should you post them? Put your company in front of the right eyes by placing them anywhere high-achieving women are looking for jobs.
For instance, many employers like to advertise in colleges for women, especially those with graduate programs. Virtual job boards like The Mom Project and PowerToFly are excellent options as well because they cater to a wide array of women, many of whom could fill open C-suite positions at your company. Tap into local resources like women-led nonprofits and women-centered organizations. There, you’ll find passionate and determined leaders that’ll make great additions to your management team.
Give Back to the Community
Gender aside, employees enjoying working for companies that share their core values. However, partnering with brands that give back to the community is especially important to women. That’s because 10 percent more women than men give money to charities. Plus, females tend to make more contributions as their income rises.
Thus, employers can attract female candidates and revitalize their community by creating a charitable company culture. Create initiatives that support locals and give employees a sense of meaning. Make your efforts public so that more female candidates see your company reflecting their values and giving back.
Letting Women Take the Lead
Keeping women in the workforce is imperative because it creates a more inclusive workplace and a stronger economy for everyone. However, companies that wish to create an effective acquisition campaign must let women take the lead. They know better than anyone what females want and need in a job. So, it’s only natural that they provide advice, feedback, and guidance throughout the hiring and onboarding process.
Look within your existing team to identify women who value diversity and inclusion. Let them take the lead to recruit new candidates, design a mentorship program, and gather professional development resources. By the time you’ve added a few more faces to your team, every woman will feel more empowered, knowledgeable, and influential, which will only yield more female leaders in the future.