Mind the Gap: Four ways to increase opportunities for women in the workforce

In November 2019, the Victorian Parliament introduced the Australian-first Gender Equality Bill. The Bill aims to ensure gender equality in the public service is non-negotiable and will require employers to publicly report every two years on their progress in addressing the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and achieving equality in career opportunities.

Although this Bill applies to the public sector in Victoria only, there are hopes that it may form the basis for future nationwide legislation to address systemic issues, which affect businesses and organisations across both the private and public sector in Australia.

These issues include deeply-ingrained gender stereotypes of certain jobs, the gap in flexible working policies, the continued underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, and the gender pay gap. The latter is particularly disturbing with Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency revealing the average female full-time worker took home 20.8 percent less than men in 2018-19.

The statistics are disappointing given the focus of employers on attracting and nurturing female employees over the last decade. So why aren’t we closing the gender gap and what can businesses and HR be doing to address the issue?

Our work with leading global and local brands, has enabled us to observe the practices of some of the most successful companies at recruiting, retaining and nurturing women in the workforce – and we have identified their top four strategies:

1. Widen your recruitment outreach to tap into diverse pools of talent

Talent can come from anywhere. Recruit beyond your industry or the same companies or only top ranked schools. Many companies find they are able to recruit valuable and talented women when they begin to expand their recruiting horizons and look for potential over pedigree.

For some, this means looking to the gig economy where they can find highly qualified and motivated Talent. Women with dependent children are the most likely demographic to be self-employed in Australia and many have turned to the gig economy after facing challenges when trying to re-enter the workforce.

For other businesses, potential over pedigree means swapping out hard requirement like ‘must have university degree’ or ‘must have 3 years of experience in a related field’. This opens the pool to include overlooked candidates who bring curiosity, drive and determination. There should be nothing startling about this approach given eight out of the top 10 billionaires on the Forbes list don’t have a university degree, proving that degrees aren’t always the best indicators of future success.

2. Use technology to help overcome unconscious bias – the case of BHP

Today’s technology can assess the entire recruitment pipeline rather than forcing time-constrained humans to implement biased process to shrink the candidate pipeline from the start. The traditional recruitment approach of ‘resume review’ leads to women and minorities being at a 50-67 percent disadvantage, largely thanks to unconscious bias.

This fact is actually one of the reasons why pymetrics was founded – we wanted to help match people to their best fit jobs fairly and where they are most likely to succeed.

Our platform, powered by ethically-designed AI, predicts a candidate’s potential to succeed in a role based on their cognitive, social and emotional attributes — none of which are correlated to gender, race or age. It exposes companies to talented candidates who might have gone unnoticed or quickly dismissed with the traditional CV screen.

One of Australia’s largest resource sector organisations, BHP, is leading the way here, using technological advances to unlock exceptional opportunities for women to manage and operate autonomous systems.

Where physicality was once the most important skill for the job, BHP’s Integrated Remote Operations Centre Coal (IROC) is now recruiting based on intrinsic attributes required in employees, rather than focusing on sector experience and specific qualifications.

Consequently, 53 percent of its controllers are now women and 32 percent are totally new recruits to the mining sector.

3. Complement ‘gut feel’ approach with data

One of the best ways to shift the gender equality needle in any organisation is to measure and capture data surrounding recruitment and Talent management outcomes, as well as to track gender-related programmes and initiatives.  

The reality is that bias creeps into recruitment and Talent management simply because the traditional model leans heavily on the ‘gut feel’ or instinct of the hiring manager. It is subjective and it can result in the right candidate being overlooked.

In fact we know while the average job receives 250 applications, the candidate chosen by the company fails 30-50 percent of the time – often due to subjective suppositions and assumptions based on a candidates’ previous roles or experience.  

A better approach is to complement the ‘gut feel’ approach with a more insightful and objective data approach in order to challenge the hiring manager to consider a broader range of candidates.

We are working with one of Australia’s largest banks to do just this, helping to transform their graduate hiring process. They are using a data driven approach to ensure they hire adaptive graduates to develop the kind of critical capabilities the bank needs to drive future success.

Naturally it is combined with the human touch, but by relying on data to inform decision-making around specific candidate aptitudes, the organisation has been able to attract more candidates from non-traditional backgrounds, increase the number of female candidates, reduce the strike rate after the first ‘human’ interview in the process and improve the candidate experience.

4. Align recruitment and retention strategy

It is one thing to adjust recruitment processes to attract a larger pool of talented women, but it is another to support and nurture female Talent once they are employees.

This means looking at the 360-degree experience of women, including areas like implementing a flexible working policy for those returning from parental leave and helping them identify opportunities for internal mobility.

Research shows that the most successful people are those who have held diverse roles and rarely specialise until later in their career, so we must build agility into the experiences women have at work and provide the opportunity to build confidence, resilience and skills.

Looking to the next decade, we expect to see more opportunities for women as the future of work becomes increasingly fluid and as roles and working practices that have historically been gender segregated begin to be eliminated.

However, in order to make larger strides in closing the gender gap, I would encourage Talent Acquisition leaders to actively explore how they can embrace the use of data, technology and inclusive practices to re-engineer recruitment and retention strategies.

To learn more about how pymetrics is increasing equal access to opportunities, email info@pymetrics.com.

Cover image: Shutterstock

This article is contributed by pymetrics.

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One Response to “Mind the Gap: Four ways to increase opportunities for women in the workforce”

  1. It’s a good article to tell about the women in workplace and the talent to be used from them. Women have achieved many great things in the science and tech. I hope, further also the same happens across the globe.


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