Five top tips to close the gender gap
Viv Dykstra , March 05, 2015
While there's no magic formula to instantly close the gender gap that exists in male-dominated industries, here are five top tips for encouraging more qualified women into these sectors.
1. Encourage girls earlier on in their education to consider careers in male-dominated sectors by reaching out to schools as well as universities
Many company outreach programmes are unimaginative and involve targeting the same universities year after year. However, this can be limiting – especially if your competitors are using a similar approach. In order to reach a broader talent pool of young women, companies need to adopt a more considered programme. This includes engaging with a younger audience, such as girls in their final years of secondary education (primarily years 12 and 13). Doing so helps to sow seeds earlier on and introduce more women to the concept of a career in an industry they may not have previously considered.
2. Encourage and mentor junior women
Female employees may need targeted support and encouragement within an organisation, particularly if the majority of the management team are male. If there are few female leaders within the organisation women may not believe they can penetrate your glass ceiling.
Mentoring schemes can be very beneficial for female employees. However, because there are very few women higher up the tree in many male-dominated industries, it can be difficult for some companies to set up woman-to-woman mentoring schemes. In this case, learning initiatives that focus on imparting key skills such as confidence-building and assertiveness become increasingly important.
3. Build a culture of inclusion and respect across the workplace
There’s no doubt that inclusive workplaces, which openly communicate their values and strategies on equality, human rights and inclusion, are able to attract a wider pool of talent and have greater success in retaining staff.
Changing the mindset or culture of any organisation is a slow process, but any inclusion review of your workplace should always start with considering what you want to achieve and what the benefits will be. Then you can decide where work is needed and create an action plan, which should be communicated to staff and reviewed regularly.
It goes without saying that all firms looking to build a culture of inclusion and respect should adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on harassment, bullying and discrimination.
4. Offer more flexible working options
Studies show that corporations that consider their employees’ family obligations receive increased productivity in return as they have lower absenteeism, reduced turnover rates and higher employee morale.
One of the most cited reasons that women do not apply for some positions is concern over work-life balance. Consider adding more flexibility to your workplace policies. Can your employees work remotely from home? Do you offer flexible hours? Are there opportunities for them to job-share or work part-time? Working women often crave flexibility, so give them those options.
5. Be more visibly female-friendly in advertising campaigns and marketing material
To attract female talent it’s important to include the right imagery in your company’s marketing and promotional material, for example featuring pictures of female employees on your website. However, at the same time make sure that what is reflected in your marketing material is a realistic interpretation of what’s inside the doors when new employees arrive!
Viv Dykstra is CEO of The Artemis Network, a charity that offer mentoring, coaching and networking to young women