Building a female talent pipeline is not about fixing women

Most organisations are awash with female talent, but this talent hasn’t been given the opportunity to show what they can do

It is often argued that a major factor preventing more women from being recruited, promoted or accessing senior roles is a pipeline problem. With 25% of global businesses reporting no women in senior management roles, the time at which women will reach parity with men is still a long way off.

But for me it’s not about building a pipeline of female talent. So many organisations are unknowingly sitting on talent, meaning they are not able to realise the potential and benefit that’s there. We do not need to fix the women; the women are great! Instead it is about adjusting an organisation’s approach to discovering and harnessing this talent.

There are a number of ways organisations can ensure they are fostering a more inclusive environment, from recruitment all the way through to retaining current employees. But there are five I believe are vital to get right if organisations are to start to move the needle.

1. Recruit

Eliminate gender bias in recruitment by changing the language – for example in job descriptions – to attract more women. Instead of using aggressive language such as 'we’re looking for someone to take the bull by the horns', replace it with more collaborative descriptions. Other areas to think about are: do HR and managers undertake unconscious bias training? Are you demanding gender-balanced shortlists? When making hiring decisions do you have a diverse hiring panel?

2. Retain

Women need to be properly retained after recruitment, which can be done several ways. It’s vital you’re diverse in your thinking about career plans. And these need to be tailored to suit the needs of all individuals – for example, to take into account childcare needs, ageing parents or someone’s desire to take a break from work to travel the world.

As a working parent myself I know firsthand how important it is to support people who need to adapt their working practices to family commitments. That’s why, by ensuring you are clear about the opportunity for flexible working, you will in turn support a more engaged workforce.

3. Role models

Create ‘normal’ leadership role models that are relatable and realistic. One way to deliver this is the introduction of inclusion networks focused on enhancing an inclusive culture for employees so they can be completely themselves at work, achieve their full potential and deliver what matters most. Inclusion networks give employees a platform to feel included and valued, and are a vital way to ensure that specific people throughout the business receive the proper support and advice they need.

And it is the responsibility of the senior team to take the lead by championing people within their organisation, as well as encouraging other senior people to act as mentors and role models.

4. Rally

Real change only comes from taking every single person – women and men – on the journey. Engage men by creating women’s business networks that include both men and women to support and create momentum for change. One of our most inspiring executive champions talked about his admiration for his mother, wife and first manager; all of whom inspired him and made him determined to support female inclusion.

5. Reshape

To unleash real potential it is fundamentally about the will to create a culture where everybody can bring their creativity, experience, uniqueness and be given the freedom to succeed. Ensuring there is more female talent at the top requires a long-term commitment to making a fundamental shift in how you attract, develop and retain key talent across all of your workforce.

Val Risk is global account managing director at Fujitsu Services