7 Powerful Ways to Recruit More Female Leaders

Feb 03, 2016 - Joe Matar

Where are all the women?

Walking into boardrooms across America, you’d likely ask the same question. While women hold a narrow majority in the American workforce, only 16.9 % of Fortune 500 board members and 4.6% of CEOs are women. Despite the advances made on behalf of women at work through movements like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement, reality is women’s progress in leadership is still stalling.

Increasing the number of women in your company's C-suite isn’t just a smart decision; it’s actually a competitive advantage. In fact, research shows that corporations with more women in their C-suite perform better financially than their boys’ club counterparts.

Adapting your recruiting practices to recruit more female leaders, and can pay off in huge dividends for your company. So what are you waiting for?

Try these seven diversity hiring ideas to help attract and retain more C-suite-level female talent.

1. Cast a Wider Net

First things first: where to find this high-performing, available executive female talent? To get different results, we must employ different practices. Focus your recruiting efforts on spaces that are already supportive of high-achieving women. Look to women’s colleges, female professional organizations, and employee referrals for a more diverse slate of candidates.

2. Recruit From the Inside

Unsurprisingly, women are attracted to companies that are already promoting women’s success at work. So start in your own backyard by recruiting female leaders who are already flourishing at the company. Not only do these women have more experience with your company’s culture and leadership style, but they will also help attract even more top female talent.

3. Ditch the Gender Bias

Many organizations’ recruiting, career development, and employee retention practices are simply outdated. Too traditional (in the wrong sense of the word) and way too biased. It’s no wonder the gender pay gap is still so staggeringly deep!

Try integrating gender-conscious updates into your hiring practices. Making your staff aware of the biases at work in their subconscious is often the first step to combatting bias’s effect on decision-making. Try administering Implicit Association Tests (IAT) company-wide to raise awareness, or, even better, hire a firm to assess your diversity programs from an outsider’s point of view.

4. Use Women to Recruit More Women

“Women at the senior level are beacons for other women,” the Anita Borg Institute’s Elizabeth Ames said recently. Helping the women within your ranks climb the corporate ladder attracts new talent and builds your pool of internal referrals to boot.

What does this mean for your company? Don’t just place one or even two women in executive-level positions. Instead, adjust your recruiting practices to attract and place a larger number of women at the top of your departments to effect real, long-lasting change. Want ant example? Check out the Etsy Hacker grants, which the company put in place to attract and support more women in technology.

5. Target Returning Female Talent

Many women have taken career breaks to take care of children or relatives. And for many of these, returning to work presents significant challenges, including drops in pay and professional status. This often untapped market is a great opportunity for organizations wishing to recruit female leaders for their C-suite.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, started a “returnship” program back in 2008. The program’s goal is to recruit women looking to re-enter the workforce after a career break of two years or more. Their example has been followed by a number of banks as well, and is proving quite successful.

6. Focus on Long-Term Recruiting

While there has been some progress in recruiting female executives, there is also a downward trend in terms of retaining them. What does that have to do with recruiting them in the first place, you may ask?

Recruiting strategies must be built with a long-term, as opposed to a short-term, focus. When hiring top female talent, place importance on cultural fit and career trajectory to ensure these women will not only rise to the top, but also stay there.

7. Move Online

C-suite talent can be scarce as is, but when it comes to wooing female executives, the challenge grows even bigger. Moving your recruiting search online can be a great way to tap into a larger, more diversified pool of candidates. Investing in online recruiting technology can also arm you with the tools to more accurately assess candidates’ skills, experience, and qualifications.

Which of these diversity hiring ideas are you currently using to recruit female leaders for the C-suite? What would you add to this list?

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Solange Lopes is the founder and editor of The Corporate Sister blog (www.thecorporatesister.com), where she provides career and lifestyle advice to successful professional women. When she’s not blogging, she enjoys cuddling at home with her family and sipping on some strong coffee.


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