Gender diversity is vital to any workplace – not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it makes business sense. Study after study shows that diversity improves productivity, promotes accountability and transparency and increases financial performance.

Many struggle to effectively improve the representation of women in their ranks

Yet, while companies increasingly acknowledge the benefits of building diverse teams, many struggle to effectively improve the representation of women in their ranks – either because they don’t know where to start, because they can’t seem to find the right talent, or because of persisting unconscious bias they fail to eradicate.

Besides training and consulting programs, what alternative ways exist to help companies get more women on board? Looking at global trends and regional challenges, here are three trends start-ups and established businesses could tap into to finally move the needle.

1- Try blind hiring – Literally turn your back to candidates

Most companies say they want to attract a diverse workforce, but few deliver. This might partly be due to what is known as ‘the paradox of meritocracy’, the surprising but research-backed concept that the more a company prides themselves on their meritocratic ethos, the more biased against women they are. The logic behind it is simple, though: when managers work for a ‘meritocratic organization’, they believe they are more impartial, and become less likely to self-scrutinize, thus more prone to act on their biases.

The more a company prides themselves on their meritocratic ethos, the more biased against women they are

The solution may be a radical one: anonymity.

Imagine hiring a candidate without knowing their name, educational background or ethnicity. Known as “blind hiring”, this practice has grown increasingly popular across industries in the US as a way to reduce bias and improve workplace diversity – especially in the STEM fields.

While some might argue the critical ‘cultural fit’ is harder to assess through anonymous applications, it would come as little surprise that hiring for culture fit can be self-reinforcing. In 2014, Google released data on the makeup of its workforce for the first time, revealing the lack of diversity that its recruitment strategy yielded – with only 2 percent of Blacks, 3 percent of Latinos, and over 70% of men.

Capitalizing on the potential of technology to circumvent unconscious bias, Kedar Iyer, an entrepreneur in Sillicon Valley, launched GapJumpers, a company working with employers to create challenges for applicants that mimic what people would do on the job and allow applications without showing employers any biographical information. The first piece of information the hiring company sees is applicants’ scores, and, based on those, it selects candidates to interview. Only then does it see their names and résumés.

With start-ups such as merit-based matching app Blendoor or anonymous interview practice platform Interviewing.io – set up on the premise that you can’t fix diversity in tech without fixing the technical interview –, the trend has gained traction, and an increasing number of companies resort to hiring ‘The Voice’ way. If you, too, are struggling to increase the number of women in your ranks and think it might be due to unconscious bias, why not give it a shot?

Most companies say they want to attract a diverse workforce, but few deliverClick To Tweet

2- Tap into the gig economy – hire working mums

For start-ups and SMEs, finding suitable talent they can afford and fit in their smaller offices can already pose a serious challenge, so focusing on diverse teams may not exactly be a priority. To increase gender diversity as well as tap into the talent of women who have earned their stripes time and time again, there could be one simple solution: hire mothers, and offer them flexibility.

According to a 2016 Hays report, flexible working practices (33%) and education across the organization to change workplace culture (23%) were the most commonly cited initiatives to improve gender diversity.

Hire mothers, and offer them flexibility

Over the past year, the UAE saw the creation of Hopscotch and Mums@Work, two companies that match the talent of working mothers with the needs of companies in the region.

In order to help professional women get back into work and support companies who are looking to build diverse teams, they offer recruitment services as well as additional support such as workshops, interview tips and more. Hopscotch specializes in flexible working options – but Founder Helen McGuire insists that their mission is also to develop leadership capability among women, help them prepare for interviews, as well as educate the market on the benefits of flexible hours – something that multinationals in the region have responded very well to, but that local businesses are only starting to explore.

For small and bigger businesses, this opens new doors – allowing them to access an untapped talent pool of women who have the experience, the ability to multitask,and bring in a variety of skills that young men and women may not possess. What if this could be the solution to attract highly qualified employees while keeping an eye on your budget?

What alternative ways exist to help companies get more women on board?Click To Tweet

3- Don’t just be a great place to work, be woman-friendly – and shout it on the rooftops

In order to attract and retain women, businesses have to think in terms of policies and incentives for all their employees – not just the women – but also remember that high-potential women will be on the lookout for accolades and signs that they are a woman-friendly employer.

High-potential women will be on the lookout for accolades and signs that they are a woman-friendly employer

Companies with women-friendly policies often receive the recognition they deserve, which is why Catalyst remains a site of choice for women seeking their next employer. The organization awards companies for excellence in addressing diversity issues, while also serving as a resource for businesses and job seekers.

Becoming part of women’s networks can also help employers access a wider talent pool – while partaking in an ongoing conversation to benchmark and improve their Diversity & Inclusion practices.

Studies prove that women value mentorship and sponsorship initiatives – and businesses have the choice to tie up with a number of trusted organizations.

Women’s networks can also help employers access a wider talent pool

Following the model of Glassdoor – a site that allows employees to anonymously review companies and their management teams, Ursula Mead, a financial tech female executive, launched InHerSight, a completely anonymous platform to measure companies’ support for women. The website focuses on 14 key metrics (both formal policies and “soft” policies) that matter most to working women, including flexibility, family growth support, salary satisfaction, culture and leadership development opportunities.

Finally, one of the most cost-effective ways to spread the word about a women-friendly work environment and benchmark your practices is to file award nominations. In the Middle East, the WIL Achievement Awards have recognized women-friendly organizations and specific initiatives designed to support women’s empowerment.

So, if you think you have the policies in place but still struggle to attract female talent, it could be time for you to ‘get out there’ and be noticed at all the right places!

https://i2.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/emptydesk.jpg?fit=1024%2C576https://i2.wp.com/openforideas.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/emptydesk.jpg?resize=150%2C150Charlotte ChedevilleDiversity & Divergencyconsulting,economy,employers,flexibility,gender,mums,recruitment,SME,teams,technology,training
Gender diversity is vital to any workplace – not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it makes business sense. Study after study shows that diversity improves productivity, promotes accountability and transparency and increases financial performance. Yet, while companies increasingly acknowledge the benefits of building diverse teams, many...
Charlotte Chedeville
I am an eclectic mind, a passionate risk-taker and above all, a people person. I met one of my best friends at a layover in an airport, ‘headhunted’ my last employer in a café (I know, it’s ideally the other way around) and still exchange emails with my high-school teachers. I currently work at Naseba, where I conceptualize and deliver events with a purpose - focusing on leadership development and Diversity & Inclusion.