This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Balance for Better, endeavoring to highlight issues that still affect gender equality. To take a look at some of these problems we spoke to our Director, Catherine Kellaway, about the importance of recruitment firms backing gender equality, the problems that are fueling inequality within the workplace and who personally inspires her.
Tell us about some of the initiatives Goodman Masson are doing to target inequality?
We have created NTWK Finance Group and it has been a great force for change, allowing senior Finance leaders to meet and share ideas and best practice. People have been able to create a community off the back of it and those who were maybe the only/one of a few senior woman within their company are now able to discuss issues and more importantly resolutions to those issues. Our first few events have been focused on women. We now want to invite senior male leaders to attend these events, as we recognise the importance of having men included.
I also think that it’s great that we’ve been leading by example. We’ve made our diversity statistics public and ensured people know our diversity goals. Across the board, our workforce is pretty much 50/50, however like most recruitment companies, that number drops as you hit senior leadership. We have to take a look at why that is and take action to enable change. We have the goal of having a female Board member by 2020. I think it’s important that people working at GM know that’s an aim.
When it comes to our clients, we’re doing a similar thing, proactively submitting senior female leaders and communicating to the market which clients are passionate about being an employer of choice for women. There is of course still a long way to go in achieving a more equal picture. In 2018 there are more men called David or Steve heading up FTSE 100 companies than there are women (or ethnic minorities!) in total, which is just a crazy statistic! It is evident that there are still huge imbalances, which is one of the reasons we proudly support and encourage client initiatives to insist on gender diverse shortlists. In addition to this, we report on gender diversity statistics throughout the recruitment process, so a client can understand at what stage they are losing top female talent at.
What can we do to ensure there are more women in senior leadership positions?
Through implementing the policy within our own offices we’ve recognised the importance of establishing flexible working as the norm for everyone. If you’ve got good flexible working practices, it supports, enables and attracts a more diverse workforce.
There is a huge gap across the recruitment industry for mothers returning to the workplace. We need to look at what helps women return to work, from places to express and store breast milk; childcare support; networking groups; and creating an overall environment where new parents feel supported.
Something I see as key is having an equal parental leave policy for men and women. In the UK, even the Government’s enhanced Shared Paternity Leave scheme (SPL) (2015), currently means a man using the SPL scheme will be paid less than a woman would get on maternity leave if she took SPL. Until we have structure and culture where shared paternity leave is, equal, encouraged and the norm, the workplace cannot be truly equal. A family should be free to choose how they structure parental care, without the government and employers encouraging traditional gender roles.
We also need to invest in training around unconscious bias. There’s a lot of research around how the language we use in job adverts can affect whether men or women will apply for the role. A study by Hewlett Packard found that in general, men would apply for a role if they hit 60% of the required skills, whereas women would only apply if they fit close to 100% of the requirements. This is where recruiters can help: by identifying which parts of the job specification are necessary and which are subjective.
At Goodman Masson, we place a lot of pride in our mentor scheme, with over 70% of our people having a mentor. I think this is important for the women in our team. Data has shown that 65% of female CEO’s didn’t consider they could be in their position until somebody told them they could and 14% put their success down to their mentor.
Finally, working for an organisation which has a culture that supports and encourages change is key.
Who do you think stands out for you currently in terms of women in leadership?
Karen Mattison, the co-founder of Timewise is really inspiring. The journey she went on in terms of her career is interesting. When she returned from maternity leave, she didn’t just accept the status-quo, she set up her own business targeting the exact problems she was having. They started with the idea that flexible working was a gendered issue but have realised the power and necessity of making it a topic for everyone. The need for this inclusive approach is supported by the fact that ‘87% of full time employees either already work flexibly or want to’ (CIPD).
I am also in awe of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is able to talk about important issues in a down-to-earth manner and challenged the idea that you have to behave in a certain way. She’s breaking up this idea in politics that you have to be a certain way. I also find it interesting, this idea that she has used technology to open things up, so where her voice may not have been heard very much before, she now has this huge Instagram and Twitter following (3.5 million and counting). It’s pushing this idea that you don’t have to stick to the traditional way of working to be successful, that things are changing and you can make an impact no matter who you are. As she said last week “don’t be afraid to be confrontational.”