How to recruit and retain women (and why it's important)

How to recruit and retain women

While women have made substantial gains in the workplace in recent decades, more work remains to be done. Women in the workforce — particularly in leadership positions — can enable organizations to boost their productivity and profitability. Yet women only make up 28% of executive positions on leadership teams despite accounting for 47% of the U.S. workforce.

As your organization works toward gender diversity and equity, it's essential to consider how to hire and retain female employees. When you understand how to support women in the workplace, you can improve female retention and promote women to higher positions, reducing turnover and lowering hiring costs. In this guide, we explain why female recruitment is important and describe some strategies you can use to hire and retain women successfully.

Why is it important to recruit women?

Aside from the fact that women comprise about half of the population in the United States, there are many reasons to recruit female employees to your organization. Companies that work toward gender diversity can improve their brand and performance. Specifically, hiring and retaining women can help your business:

  • Attract top talent: Companies with balanced workforces often attract more candidates for open positions, allowing them to hire top talent.
  • Build a better reputation: Working to achieve gender equity can improve your organization's public image, helping you gain new customers and encouraging more applicants to apply for positions.
  • Make decisions: Balanced perspectives, especially on leadership teams, can help your business make thoughtful, informed decisions. In addition, women can provide insights into a key portion of your company's target market or demographics.
  • Improve workplace culture: When women feel that they have the opportunity to grow and advance with an organization, they feel more engaged and satisfied with their jobs. Job satisfaction can improve overall workplace culture.

With so many benefits to hiring women, you may want to learn how to improve your female hiring strategy. Here are some tips to recruit and retain women for your organization.

"When women feel that they have the opportunity to grow and advance with an organization, they feel more engaged and satisfied with their jobs."

Create inclusive job postings

You've probably heard that men are more likely to apply for a job even if they don't meet all the requirements, whereas women only apply if they have all the necessary qualifications. While the actual truth may be a bit more complicated, it's true that some language may dissuade women from applying for a role. In job descriptions, you might encourage candidates to apply if they meet most of the requirements rather than all of them. Additionally, consider limiting the number of requirements to get a wider range of applicants.

When posting an open position, use inclusive language to encourage female applicants to apply for the role. Refrain from using words such as "ninja" to describe a position and stick to traditional job titles instead. Be mindful of gender-coded words that might discourage women, such as "aggressive" or "headstrong." Use neutral language to ensure the posting attracts a diverse set of candidates.

Emphasize diversity and inclusion

In job postings and other hiring materials, emphasize the organization's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. According to recent Gallup research, men and women cite the same top factors when deciding whether to apply for a new job — with one notable exception. One in two women states that diversity and inclusion are top factors in their job search, while only three in 10 men cite these as important.

As you work to recruit women, share what your business is doing to improve diversity and achieve workplace equity. For example, you could promote the organization's leadership training program for underrepresented groups, including women.

Post the salary and benefits

Of course, compensation is a major consideration for women as they decide whether to apply for new positions. Women continue to earn less than men, making about 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, the gender pay gap is even wider. By posting the salary for a position, you show female applicants that the organization values transparency and offers fair pay based on qualifications, not gender.

In addition to the salary, post about the benefits the organization offers that are attractive to women. These might include:

  • Paid parental leave
  • Family planning benefits
  • Career development opportunities
  • Child care assistance
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Returnship programs

Offer flexibility

Among other benefits, flexible work arrangements continue to be a popular perk for women employees. While societal norms have changed, women still do more household and child care work than men, on average. According to McKinsey and Company's Women in the Workplace 2023 report, 38% of mothers with young children say they would have had to leave their jobs or reduce their hours if they didn't have flexible work arrangements. Remote and hybrid work can allow female employees to achieve a better work-life balance, particularly if they juggle their working life with child care and caregiving responsibilities.

For female employees, particularly female employees of color, remote work can also lead to fewer microaggressions in the workplace. Microaggressions are subtle or indirect displays of discrimination toward marginalized groups. Women who work remotely may feel less pressure to change their appearance or behaviors to avoid these microaggressions, which can improve their engagement and job satisfaction.

Provide development opportunities

Broadly speaking, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions across industries. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2023, women account for 41.9% of the workforce yet only hold 32.2% of senior leadership positions, such as director or vice president. At this rate, it will take 131 years to achieve full gender parity, according to the report.

When women feel they have no opportunity to grow with a company, they're more likely to leave for an organization where they can advance. To retain women in the workforce, make it a priority to offer upskilling and development opportunities. Some examples of these opportunities include:

  • Leadership or management training programs
  • Coaching or mentoring programs
  • Skills or learning courses
  • Certifications
  • Career workshops
  • Seminars or conferences
  • Networking events
  • Employee resource groups

Speak with entry-level and intermediate employees in your organization to make them aware of these development opportunities. In addition, look internally when hiring for leadership positions in your organization and encourage talented female employees to apply.

Promote inclusivity in the workplace

While all the above tips will go a long way toward hiring and retaining women, continually encouraging and promoting inclusivity can create a diverse, balanced workforce. Consistent efforts to amplify women's voices and promote female employees will show these workers that the organization cares about achieving gender equity.

Find ways to demonstrate inclusivity in all areas of the workplace. For example, consider holding training for executives or leadership teams on listening respectfully to all voices, including women. Or, implement a mentorship program for female employees, where women in leadership positions can offer career guidance and advice to employees who want to advance. Over time, these initiatives will have major benefits not only for women employees but also for the entire workforce.

An equal, balanced workforce can enhance a company's performance, brand, decision-making, and culture. Consider how you can use these tips to improve your female hiring strategy and retain women employees in your organization. By implementing these strategies, you can attract ambitious, driven women to your business and give them the tools they need to succeed.

More tips on building a diverse, equitable workforce:

Gender diversity in the workplace starts with effective recruiting methods. These tips can help you hire more diverse candidates.

Gender discrimination can lead to higher turnover and low workplace morale. Here's how you can combat stereotypes and eliminate gender biases in your organization.

Wage equality can help your business attract a diverse set of candidates. Check out these tips to close the pay gap once and for all.

Women may be more likely to leave their jobs if they don't see a path forward for career progression. Understanding how to help women advance can be critical to retaining female employees in your organization.

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