Industries such as infrastructure, mining, utilities and construction have historically been perceived to be a ‘man’s domain’ and the proportionate representation of women has remained low across most levels. In Australia, organisations have struggled to not only attract women to consider and apply for jobs, but they have also had challenges in retaining the women who have been employed by them.

However, the drive for change is certainly growing and there is now a concerted focus on increasing the representation of women in these industries. Embracing this change and actively developing and implementing strategies to recruit and retain more women will help businesses to be more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

Research has shown that leading organisations in male-dominated industries recognise the need to develop an integrated strategy to increase the representation and retention of women. The benefits of having unique mechanisms to attract, recruit, retain and develop women at all levels of the organisation are vast.

ANZ has made a noticeable effort to implement gender diversity strategies in recent years. In 2015, they became the first bank in Australia to discriminate positively in favour of women by promising an extra $500 a year employer super contribution for its 12,700 female staff in Australia, as part of a raft of benefits aimed mainly at women. Similarly, their competitor, Macquarie Group, have hosted a series of events titled Female Business Series in which they invited penultimate year female university students to workshops to discuss topics like the key stages of applying for a role, learning about their operating groups, the diverse work they offer and developing networking skills. These events provided attendees with the opportunity to talk one-on-one with current employees from the Group.

If you are looking to increase gender diversity, you might like to consider some of the following attraction, recruitment, retention and development strategies:

Attraction Strategies

  • Display diverse images and use inclusive language and other visual cues in job advertisements
  • Locate advertisements where women will notice them including in business centres, in print media, on internet sites and the online forums women are regularly accessing
  • Offer a female contact for questions to give potential female applicants the opportunity to ask questions to women employed by the organisation
  • Sponsor and offer a graduate program to young women and promote the career opportunities available
  • Host informational or educational events, targeted at female attendees to promote the career opportunities available

Recruitment Strategies

  • Establish recruitment targets for women, both shortlisting and interview targets and explain the process and rationale to all employees
  • Share targets with recruitment and labour suppliers and encourage them to partner to achieve these targets
  • Train recruiters to recognise stereotypes and unconscious bias about the sort of work women can do and the myths about women in male dominated roles
  • Offer women the opportunity to display their skills during the recruitment process instead of relying solely on interview questions
  • Obtain feedback from women applicants at each stage of the recruitment process and use this process to create a positive experience for applicants

Retention strategies

  • Engage senior leaders as role models for work-life effectiveness and valuing results over face-time and long hours
  • Promote the gender diversity of the team in client proposals acknowledging the competitive advantage this brings relative to other suppliers
  • Monitor and ensure pay equity and make the review process and results transparent to all employees
  • Implement policies that foster an inclusive workplace, including a carers strategy and paid parental leave including a ‘keep in touch’ program for employees who go on extended leave
  • Promote and display zero tolerance for sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination

Development Strategies

  • Engage senior leaders as role models for development and profile their career paths, particularly senior women
  • Offer mentoring programs for women and reverse mentoring for senior men to be mentored by junior women
  • Provide support to partners to facilitate employee participation in training programs out of hours and in different locations
  • Train leaders engaged in the talent process to recognise stereotypes and unconscious bias about the sort of work women can do and their potential success in male-dominated roles
  • Monitor advancement and fall-offs of women’s representation in development and take action when required to ensure meritocracy

Women are still underrepresented in the technology industry despite decades of progress toward workplace equality. However, we must guarantee that the IT industry offers a welcoming and inclusive environment. We strongly suggest reading Jennifer Gregory’s report on empowering women in technology.

Author: wattsnext Group
The wattsnext Group blog is a compilation of ideas and expertise from the entire team, past and present with a few added gems from guest authors from time to time. With this collaborative approach, we can provide you with a broader perspective and high-level expertise across the small business landscape.