7 March 2023
In The Green Room with Michelle Russell
Every day, my team and I meet fantastic female candidates while recruiting for senior leadership roles across the UK. Although the number of women in such roles has jumped in the last year, they are still outnumbered by men. So, how can talented women excel during the recruitment process and access the top jobs? The answer lies not just in equal opportunities, but in equity – the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day.
What is equity?
Equal practice means everyone is treated the same way, but that isn’t always enough. It assumes that everyone started out in the same place – and this can be hugely inaccurate.
Equity acknowledges that people begin life from different places, with different circumstances and privileges. Equitable practice allocates them the resources and opportunities they need to succeed and overcome systemic and structural barriers.
To achieve gender equity, we need to ensure that women are able to shine throughout the recruitment process. Although the onus is on employers to support female candidates, there are also plenty of ways for women to empower themselves. Here are some to think about.
Five ways women can empower themselves to excel in the recruitment process:
Women have a tendency to rule themselves out of jobs because they don’t meet every single criterion on the job description. Even when they are overwhelming qualified, they let one small detail put them off applying. In this situation it helps to have an objective view of your skillset and qualities, so you can see the bigger picture. At Green Park, we try to provide that crucial independent viewpoint and help our candidates see how they can benefit an organisation and fulfil a role capably.
You’re talented and experienced, with your own individual strengths. To grab employers’ attention, be ready to present and emphasise these particular skills. Think back and consider the ways in which you’ve excelled in roles throughout your career. Maybe you’ve always built amazing client relationships, or perhaps you’re an incredible coach. Whatever your strength, identify it and pick out specific instances where you have used it and what you achieved. If you’re a great manager/motivator/organiser/etc., say so – but always use real-life examples from your work history to evidence your claims.
Standing out to employers means being truthful about your successes, so for instance, don’t say “We grew sales by 30%” when you really mean “I grew sales by 30%”. So many women downplay their achievements during the recruitment process because they’re afraid of sounding boastful. Get used to saying “I” (when appropriate).
Many women have diverse career histories that may involve breaks to have children. This isn’t a weakness in a CV – if anything, it’s a strength. Diverse experience is an advantage at leadership level, as it means you’re bringing a different point of view to the table. Meanwhile, returning to work after a break shows drive, tenacity and the ability to adapt and re-focus. Parenting itself demands empathy, a hugely positive attribute in a leader that can help them develop organisational cultures. So, instead of apologising for your varied CV, be bold and own it.
Be yourself – not who you think the employer wants you to be. The interviewer is looking to connect with an authentic individual, not a clone of existing leaders. Have the courage to think independently and show how your specific skillset can benefit the organisation. Be honest about your motivations, achievements and ambitions. Getting the job you want shouldn’t mean hiding aspects of yourself.
Take a good look at a prospective employer. Can you see yourself fitting in? Does the organisation demonstrate gender equality? Is there evidence that their values are more than words on a page? Before progressing with an application, do your research, for instance, visiting the employer’s website to check their DEI agenda. To gauge their performance against the broader business landscape, take a look at reports such as Green Park’s Business Leaders Index.
Are you recruiting?
For employers, enabling women to shine during recruitment only brings benefits. When female applicants can really show their talents, you open the door to a larger and more exciting choice of candidates. Here’s some tips.
Three ways organisations can empower women to excel in the recruitment process
No one should have to change who they are to fit into your organisation. Make sure that the recruitment process is truly inclusive, from the language used in the job description, down to contract terms and conditions. Psychometric testing can help break bias and give you a different view of candidates. Meanwhile, an interview panel that includes female staff will go a long way to demonstrating that you are genuinely inclusive and making interviewees feel welcome.
Taking time out to have children does not make a woman less capable or skilled. Similarly, a career that includes experience outside your sector or industry does not make her unsuitable. In short, be ready to consider candidates whose career histories may not fit typical or pre-conceived moulds. A less conventional CV means the applicant will probably have a broader perspective, which can be extremely valuable when it comes to leadership in today’s challenging climate.
How does your organisation appear to candidates? Is it represented accurately on platforms such as social media and your website? Are you showing the diversity of your team, the inclusivity of the culture and the sense of belonging that people feel? These elements can be critical for candidates when it comes to making a decision about a role. If you’re doing great work in DEI, you need to shout about it. At Green Park, we will always immerse ourselves in our clients culture so we can then give candidates a full and realistic picture of their potential place of work. In effect, we try to be that bridge between candidates and our clients, bringing the organisation to life and helping connections to form.
Equality is about giving people equal opportunities. But women, along with other people who are often affected by inequity, often require more than a level playing field. They need a culture that supports them in every part of life, including education, health, the workplace and during recruitment. With true gender equity, women can get the same shot at opportunities as their male counterparts.
Whether it’s prioritising skillset over career journey, or valuing diverse experience, there are plenty of things women, their allies and employers can do to #EmbraceEquity. Find out more about our Executive Search and DICE consultancy.