Diversity is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant to their customers and ensure they’re competitive in the recruitment market. An inclusive work environment offers opportunity for growth and achievement for all employees.
Andrea Himmelbauer, Culture and People Lead at Mettle, the free digital business account from NatWest, discusses how businesses can attract and retain female talent within traditionally male-based industries.
Financial services and technology roles have historically been male-dominated, lacking female employees as well as representation from other minority groups. And although we have seen an improvement towards diversity and gender equality within these industries, there is still work to be done to attract and retain female talent.
Statistics show that within the financial services industry, women still only represent 12% of executive leadership roles. This is mirrored within the technology industry, where only 28% of the workforce in STEM roles are female. Having a diverse workforce and executive leadership team is important for getting different opinions and perspectives but also for hiring the best talent. Many companies state that they value diversity and inclusion; however, to truly improve, companies need to take action.
Delivering results through correct training
One of the first things companies can do is have the right training programmes in place for employees. We all have our own biases, but when it comes to the workplace, understanding what unconscious bias is, how to overcome it and work with others is essential in not only creating and maintaining a great workplace but in order to reduce bias too. Knowing the signs to recognise it can help when putting actions and processes in place to prevent it.
This should include working with trainers and coaches who are women or from minority groups. From an internal point of view, adding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training as a mandatory requirement for all members of staff can help everyone within the company understand unconscious bias.
It’s super important to use data in every critical people process to make sure that there are no biases taking hold. How many women are you hiring? Do we pay fairly across the board? Are we rating performance fairly for everyone? Bringing data into the conversation makes it easier to make business decisions and also start conversations around biases.
Another way companies can help with gender bias, and bring more women into technology roles, is to have upskilling, mentoring and training available. By creating training programmes for employees who want to make a career shift to technology or finance, companies can ensure that they are retaining valued employees while offering them a chance to learn new skills.
Retaining employees through a clear work-life balance
Covid has changed the way we work. And whether we are remote-first or working flexibly, many employees still want to maintain their work-life balance. Not only will having flexible working policies mean that more candidates from remote and different locations to the big city centres have a chance at these tech jobs, but also those with families or looking to start one, go back to school to study, or who have other personal commitments can thrive in their career too.
Creating a positive company culture
Good workplace culture is fundamental. Even more so when it comes to creating one that supports, attracts and retains diverse groups of people. This can help to foster a sense of belonging for everyone.
Also, having support groups and places where women can discuss challenges is essential. This means creating a culture of feedback and openness to allow people to call out biased behaviour without feeling it will come back to them. This also allows everyone the opportunity to keep challenging their own biases.
There are many proactive steps that a company can take to be inclusive. This may include flexible working arrangements so that working parents can do the school drop off, paid maternity and paternity leave so families can decide together who will go back to work, medical benefits and clear-cut career paths of advancement and progression within the company.
It’s also important to think about the organisations a company supports. This might include supporting organisations, charities and powerful campaigns such as ‘Wise’ and ‘Stemettes’. HR and people leaders should ensure employees from all levels and departments are involved in supporting these organisations so that there is a sense of representation across the company.
Promoting advancement opportunities
Studies show that in comparison to men, women are less likely to put themselves forward for roles where they feel they don’t meet all of the criteria listed. One way to combat this is to have role models employees can look up to.
Sharing these insights with leaders also allows them to be more mindful when discussing promotion or salary changes in their teams. To combat biases, we need to put more effort into unravelling it and really making change. Though not something that can just be accomplished overnight, creating workplace cultures that support growth, having upskilling and mentoring programmes in place and attracting and retaining diverse talent can path the road to more diverse technology and finance leadership roles.
According to CIPD, the gender pay gap in the UK stands at 17.3%, with the reasons being cited as a lack of flexible working options, women being the main providers of unpaid caring responsibilities and undervaluing women’s work, amongst others. Tackling the underrepresentation of women at the top of organisations is imperative. Companies must develop a holistic approach to building a strong and sustainable female talent pipeline. This requires inclusive strategies that tackle organisational culture, systems and processes that are preventing change. And making sure that when succession planning, you are paving the future to a more diverse leadership team.
Attracting and retaining a diverse mix of talent in traditionally male-dominated roles involves putting specific processes in place that improve company culture and reduce bias. The key processes companies can implement in order to become more inclusive include correct training, diverse recruitment, and developing a good company culture. If companies start working on these, they can help ensure a more diverse and equal workforce.
Andrea Himmelbauer, Culture and People Lead at Mettle.