Many industries have woken up to the importance of having a diverse workforce, but in some sectors, the balance is still very skewed. In tech, for example, much progress has been made when it comes to the hiring of women when we look back even just a few decades, but we’re far from seeing complete equality. And there are benefits not only to employees but businesses too when it comes to hiring more women and levelling the playing field for all roles, regardless of gender.
Women account for just 1% of skilled tradespeople in the UK, and while the figures in STEM are higher, women still only make up 26% of the workforce for this industry. But representation matters immensely, and all industries, including tech, need to make an effort to hire more women and balance the ratios.
There are several reasons why there are so few women in male-dominated careers. While it’s illegal for a business to outright discriminate against applicants based on gender, age, race or religion, women still have many hurdles to overcome that are rarely experienced by male applicants. Unequal pay remains a key factor, and the pay gap is even higher for BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) women.
Similarly, a lack of advancement options discourages women from applying for senior roles. In tech especially, the stereotypes against women being too emotional or too angry pervade the industry and prevent women from taking on more responsibilities or even applying for tech roles in the first place.
One of the main reasons organisations should hire more women and create a more equal team is because bringing women into male-dominated fields provides a fresh perspective. Men and women view things differently and will have alternative mindsets to the same issue or project, which can be incredibly valuable to businesses. Bringing more women on board, particularly in more senior positions, offers a fresh way of looking at things and that can make processes and strategies more efficient. A balanced team will be able to innovate more effectively, which is always good for business.
A balanced workforce doesn’t just provide more innovation but it can actually encourage economic growth too. Balance means hiring and investing in the best people for a job, irrespective of their gender, and that can only be achieved by allowing women the chance to take on any role they’re qualified for. If women are encouraged to participate and train in this way, their complementary skills increase diversity and productivity for all, and that means higher wages for everyone.
In a formal sense, hiring more women also promotes EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) in the workplace and reflects that as a company, you have the reputation for complying with the underlying principles of EDI’s framework.
Businesses will find that it enhances their reputation to bring more women on-board, helping them build a better reputation. Having a positive reputation and strong employee retention can go a long way when it comes to attracting top talent. It’s important to remember that representation is incredibly important when it comes to talent acquisition and retention, and industries that hire more women will find that more women apply for roles in the future too.
Having an equal workforce reflects good people management especially when there is an ongoing strategy to invest, train and nurture every member of staff. Encouraging a team of male and female staff to acquire their articulated lorry licence, for example, might appear to go against the grain when in reality, it highlights that firm’s commitment to being inclusive and diverse. Visible efforts to train and invest in staff regardless of gender goes a long way to widening talent pools across STEM organisations, attracting applicants to industry roles where everyone feels valued.
To attract and retain women in male-dominated fields, there are several things that businesses can do. Firstly, businesses need to recognise the skills and experience that women bring to the company and ensure that there are women contributing at all levels of the business hierarchy, particularly in leadership and decision-making roles. Within the tech industry alone, all too often women can be discouraged from pursuing their career due to lack of suitable recognition and opportunity to progress. When there’s a balance of perspectives and opinions at the top, this will filter down to the rest of the business.
Organisations should also position themselves as experts and thought-leaders, encouraging women from different backgrounds and levels of seniority in the business to share their experiences and career trajectory stories. It’s important for other women to hear directly from other women, which will promote real conversations and develop network-building opportunities and connections.
Blockers such as imposter syndrome and a lack of self-confidence can be a barrier to women applying for roles where they may feel out of place, so hearing from female experts in the field can make a huge difference to helping women navigate professional environments. Likewise, if there is a flexible approach to retention that responds to the needs of the workforce and ensures that everyone has their needs met, regardless of gender, it can help retain the team you have.
Another way that businesses can encourage more women to apply for roles is to change the culture to ensure it’s accommodating and welcoming. One of the biggest barriers for women joining, or remaining, in male-dominated teams is that they don’t feel valued or respected. Women are often the victims of stereotyping and sexual harassment, and that can be isolating and anxiety-inducing. Organisations need to commit to embracing diversity but also making sure that any negative actions are met with appropriate consequences.
Women typically only apply for a position if they meet 100% of the criteria, while men will still apply even if they only have 60% of the required skills. So, businesses can encourage more female applicants by making sure job ads focus on the essential skills for a role with a list of those which are beneficial but not critical to the position. This can prevent women from inadvertently avoiding a job role when they may be more than qualified. Another strong consideration is the importance of incentives available to employees, with company benefits packages often being a distinguishing factor in employee career decisions.
Hiring female employees or even promoting more women in your business may be a great start, but it’s not enough. You need to foster the right culture for women to want to stay within your company, or you’ll find yourself dealing with constant employee turnover. Businesses should rely on data-driven decisions that enable them to back up their hiring and promotion decisions with concrete evidence. This ensures that there’s an equal balance of men and women in the organisation, and that all employees feel included, encouraging more women to take on roles in traditionally male-focused sectors.