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How to Recruit More Women to Your Company

Sarah O’Brien

April 30, 2020


Only one in five C-suite executives is a woman, and women remain underrepresented at all levels.

Only one in five C-suite executives is a woman, and women remain underrepresented at all levels.

Many leaders care about gender diversity — at least they say they do. LinkedIn research shows that 78% of talent professionals say that diversity is a hiring priority for their company and that gender diversity is the No. 1 issue they’re tackling in this area.

McKinsey’s latest Women in the Workplace report shows some progress, but there’s still work to be done. Only one in five C-suite executives is a woman, and women remain underrepresented at all levels.

LinkedIn undertook several studies around gender and work over the past year. The data has given us insights into recruiting strategies that can help leaders bring in more women.

In our Gender Insights Report , we reported that while the average number of jobs viewed by men and women in 2018 were roughly the same (44 for women and 46 for men), women are 16% less likely to apply for a job after viewing it. However, they’re also 16% more likely to get hired after they apply. If women apply for jobs at a lower rate, but tend to be the right candidates, why are they more selective about the jobs they apply to, and how can companies more effectively reach them?

Evidence compiled by journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that men generally overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. This “confidence gap” means women are effectively screening themselves out of the candidate pool before they even apply. Women usually feel they need to meet all of a job’s criteria, while men typically apply if they meet only 60% .

Knowing this difference, companies can make some immediate changes to their recruitment model:

MAKE JOB POSTINGS MORE INCLUSIVE: Focus job descriptions on the expectations of the role. Remove language like “rock star” and “ninja” that tends to alienate female applicants, and use more straightforward job titles and descriptions. In our Language Matters Report , we found that 44% of women would be discouraged from applying to a job if the description included the word “aggressive.”

SHARE STORIES OF WOMEN WHO ARE SUCCEEDING THROUGHOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION: Women and men are equally likely to visit a company’s LinkedIn page and research a company’s culture before applying for a job. When women see themselves represented in your firm’s recruiting collateral, they’re more likely to apply.

POST SALARY RANGES FOR POSITIONS: Salary information is ranked as the most important part of a job description for both genders, above qualifications, culture and long-term opportunities, but is 10% more important to women . When a company shares salary ranges , it’s a signal that it is committed to fair pay. Our Language Matters Report also found that jobs that promoted flexible work, working from home and additional medical benefits were the most popular among women.

None of these initiatives will solve the problem overnight. But when combined with open dialogue and a commitment to change, they can help business leaders craft a more deliberate recruitment strategy that better aligns with the behavior of both men and women.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Sarah O’Brien

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