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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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Women's Equality Day and the Importance of Gender Parity in Business

We regularly advocate for the power and importance of gender parity in the workforce. Stunning as it seems today, given the immense contributions of women professionals, gender equality remains an elusive goal around the world. Our ongoing challenges with creating a truly inclusive talent population really came to light two years ago when major tech companies published their lackluster diversity numbers. Even more troubling, women in their 30s are switching employers more frequently. The reason, according to a study by ICEDR (the International Consortium for Executive Development Research), may surprise a lot of business leaders. By understanding the causes and taking action, we can do even more to recruit and retain top women professionals.

Gender Equality Will Make or Break the Workforce

This Saturday, August 26, was Women’s Equality Day. ”We’ve already marked a few women’s holidays this year -- including International Women's Day (March 8) and Equal Pay Day (April 4) -- so you’re well within your rights to wonder what exactly we’re celebrating on Women’s Equality Day,” wrote Valentina Zarya in Fortune.

In short, the holiday commemorates the right to suffrage for women. It was ratified in 1920 as the 19th Amendment, giving women equal power as men to vote. President Trump, like his predecessors, issued a proclamation, which has become tradition for the office. The current White House declaration read:

Women have always been instrumental to America’s greatness, but with greater access to governing institutions through national suffrage, generations of women have been able to use the power of the ballot to shape their communities and help keep America a beacon of freedom and opportunity for the world.

Instrumental as the 19th Amendment is, its powers don’t extend to the workplace. And as we’ve seen, gender parity remains a struggle. So it’s an excellent time to continue examining issues that affect more than half of the workforce. As NASA proved in its March tribute to International Women’s Day, women have been equal pioneers in the history of technological and scientific achievements. The capabilities, skills, intelligence, imaginations and aspirations of women professionals are no less meaningful or in any way inferior to those of their male counterparts. And yet inequalities persist.

  • There remains a 26-percent gap in the labor force participation rate between men and women.
  • The average global pay gap in gender is still close to 25 percent.

Millennials are projected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. And women will count for more than 50 percent of this total. Attracting, advancing and retaining the next generation of women leaders should be a primary focus for executives. In the coming decade, how we handle issues of gender equality will make or break the workforce.

Why Millennial Women Leave Companies

Job openings continue to rise and go unfilled. The race to find talent with critical skills shows no signs of slowing. Companies are not only realizing the economic and performance benefits of diversity, they’re actively strategizing on inclusion efforts. However, the largest diversity gap continues to be one of the oldest: equal treatment for professional women. Industry and mainstream media often discuss the problem, assert that it needs to be solved and even suggest approaches for redressing it. Yet, they seldom seem to concentrate on the cause and effects. Instead, they acknowledge that the issue exists and probably isn’t good for business. Therein lies the heart of the problem and the key to its solution.

When asked in surveys such as ICEDR’s, the majority of organizational leaders claim that women leave because of flexibility concerns and family demands. They attribute the turnover to familiar influences: a woman’s desire to have children, her need for greater work-life balance to handle domestic responsibilities, and difficulties re-integrating to work after an absence, which somehow involves family. Conversely, when asked why men leave an employer, the same business leaders cite issues of better compensation or career opportunities.

The glaring weakness with these assessments is that they’re rooted in stereotypes -- in short, that women want to raise families while men are driven to greater levels of success as “providers.” In reality, women have the same reasons for switching jobs as men.

What Women Professionals Want

As researchers Christie Hunter Arscott and Lauren Noel found in their ICEDR report, the differences between millennial women and men are scant. So what are the primary factors that motivate women to leave a job? Pay is top of the list.

“In fact,” Arscott explained, “women are actually more likely to leave because of compensation than men. Not only are women’s reasons for leaving misunderstood, differences between women and men are overstated. Four out of the five top reasons thirtysomething women and men leave organizations overlap.”

  • Found a job elsewhere with better compensation.
  • Limited opportunities for learning and development with the current employer.
  • The work was not perceived as interesting or meaningful.
  • Compensation was not commensurate with the effort and time spent on the work.

The ICEDR study revealed five other major themes that directly shape the attitudes of high-performing women professionals.

  • They want to be known and understood. They want their contributions, aspirations, skills and goals acknowledged.
  • They want to be challenged.
  • They want a sense of team unity, collaboration and connection.
  • They want to be inspired by the mission and objectives of the company.
  • They want to be unleashed to prove themselves as worthy forces for innovation, performance and leadership.

Diversity has long been a hallmark of the staffing industry. More employers are reaching out to staffing professionals for assistance in locating the diverse talent they need. And it’s no wonder. Staffing agencies, many of them women- or minority-owned enterprises, have been able to exert incredible influence in helping business leaders redefine an invigorating, high-performing and lucrative talent culture that welcomes inclusion while capitalizing on the strengths of diversity.

How Staffing Professionals Can Help

It’s virtually impossible to think of staffing agencies without considering diversity. Not only do staffing professionals cultivate diverse workforces, many of them began their businesses to support diversity. It’s not just a philosophy they embrace, it’s an integral part of their cultural DNA. Staffing curators can easily help any business spearhead or augment its diversity initiatives. They can provide consultative guidance for creating diversity plans, and they excel at specialized recruiting. Clients will discover that many staffing providers have devoted themselves to representing underrepresented niches, while showcasing the unique qualities and skills that those talented workers bring.

By understanding the needs of women professionals, talent acquisition leaders can go the extra mile in recruiting exceptional candidates. Here are a few solid recommendations from Arscott, especially for retaining Millennials.

  • Millennial women should play an integral role in developing retention and recruiting strategies. Instead of talking to them, Arscott suggested, talk with them. Never assume. Get their input and develop data-driven strategies based on those findings.
  • “While options for flexibility and work-life balance are important, the bottom line is that motherhood is not the primary reason why talented women are leaving organizations,” Arscott observed. Successful recruiting must involve a serious focus on compensation, skills development and advancement opportunities.
  • Gender appears to have no significant impact on an individual’s reasons for staying at or leaving a job. By treating the motivations of women and men equally, without giving into bias or stereotypes, a meaningful staffing strategy emerges. As Arscott noted, the key is “focusing on common priorities: pay and fair compensation.”

How Business Leaders Can Help

Creating a truly diverse workplace requires a firm level of support from the organization, and those efforts must be visible. Hiring managers have a direct and significant effect on the employee experience. Their ability to recognize, reduce and rectify biases boosts retention, worker satisfaction and productivity. This is critical considering that over two million employees leave jobs each year because of instances involving unfair prejudices or outright discriminatory practices.

  • Take a genuine interest in the personal and professional aspirations of people, and help steer them toward paths that lead to attaining those goals.
  • Have meaningful interactions -- ask workers open-ended questions about their projects, their challenges, their ideas and recommendations, and actively listen to their responses.
  • Discover the unique attributes, skills and characteristics of people, which can inform more strategic placement decisions for current and future assignments.
  • Challenge talent, provide authentic opportunities to take on greater responsibilities, encourage skills development and drive them to grow professionally -- make them co-creators of a productive workforce.
  • Develop teams with a broader variety of attitudes and thinking, which spurs innovation and new methods for optimizing work.
  • Encourage everyone in the organization to look at people equally, to enforce integrity, to promote adoption and different opinions, and to take appropriate action when discrimination occurs.
  • Build up talent with a big picture view of business and their world -- exceptional workers who are compelled to “do with” others, not merely “do for” others.
  • Work toward forging a unified team with shared vision and values, not backgrounds.
  • Evaluate talent based on merit and performance. Regardless of gender, promote growth for the highest caliber workers and advocate for commensurate pay.

By evaluating the root causes of the problem, not just apparent symptoms, we can launch programs that emphasize a combined increase in diversity, performance and profit. And as the needs of modern workers become more aligned, regardless of gender, business leaders can continue to shape the way they perfect their cultures, foster a genuine team mindset that embraces and rewards the contributions every individual has to offer.

Casey Enstrom
Casey Enstrom
Casey is one of the staffing industry’s household names, specializing in sales and operations leadership. He brings extensive knowledge of business development and sales strategies, predictive analytics, leadership, and human capital solutions. Prior to Crowdstaffing, Casey served as the Vice President of Technical Sales, North America, for a Fortune 1000 staffing firm.
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