How to achieve company-wide gender equality: 4 steps

Women are still underrepresented in the workforce. One way organizations can help solve this issue is by hiring diverse leadership.

How tech companies can recruit and retain more women

As of December 2019, women now occupy more jobs in the US than men--barely. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold 50.04% of jobs in the country. Despite this progress, women continue to be underpaid and overlooked for executive job positions compared with their male coworkers. 

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving workplace diversity (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

At the rate it's going, the gender wage gap in the US isn't projected to close until 2059. However, organizations have been working toward equal pay and even gender splits in its own staff. 

Intel, for example, achieved equal pay for its 107,000 employees in 2019. Other companies including Lululemon, Salesforce, Apple, Adobe, and Starbucks have also worked toward the same goal

An even bigger issue for companies is reaching gender equity, or having an even split of women and men working for the organization. While achieving this takes significant time and effort, it is very doable, especially during today's economic climate, said Irina Novoselsky, CEO of online hiring platform CareerBuilder

Novoselsky, who managed to achieve gender parity at CareerBuilder, said the tightness of today's hiring market is helpful for creating better staff diversity. 

"Unemployment is the lowest that it's been in 50 years, but there's also a skills-gap shortage that's happening. So, there's about a million and a half more jobs than there are qualified people," Novoselsky said. 

"Companies are now looking to hire less on, 'Have you done it?' and more on, 'Can you do it?,'" Novoselsky said. "So it's almost the industry dynamics that are forcing companies to become much more diverse and inclusive." 

However, organizations themselves can also take action in promoting diversity and equality. With International Women's Day on March 8, the mission is even more important and prevalent.  

Steps to gender equality 

Novoselsky outlined the four steps that helped her achieve gender parity at CareerBuilder. 

1. Hiring diverse leadership

As with many movements, starting initiatives from the top causes a trickle-down effect, impacting the entire company. Diverse leadership helps create a diverse staff, Novoselsky said. 

"When people are applying to companies and see a diverse leadership team, they [can see] themselves on that team and say, 'OK, they did it. I can do it, too,'" Novoselsky said. "Diversity is great for diversity's sake, but it's also great business sense because every client wants to see something that mirrors themselves in the team that is working with them."  

Diverse leadership teams also bring with them their personal networks, which also tend to be more diverse. "Diversity brings diversity," Novoselsky added. 

2. Utilize technology 

Novoselsky said that technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI) was crucial to her team reaching gender equality. She suggested using this technology to process data and make sure you are picking from a diverse pool of people. 

"As a human, you would never be able to sit and comb through all this data and be able to do it yourself," Novoselsky said. "We are really able to help our own clients on the diversity issue by bringing technology to them and having the technology help meet and close the gap. Those clients that are working with us that are winning really appreciate that aspect of it."

3. Implement skills-based searching

The most critical step out of the four is using skills-based searching when hiring, which AI can also be extremely helpful with, Novoselsky said. 

"Skills-based searching is key. Make sure that you have a vendor whose algorithm is really based on skills-based searching because it takes a lot of bias out," Novoselsky said. 

Novoselsky explained how CareerBuilder invested significantly in AI to specifically conduct skills-based searches in its hiring practices. 

"We really leapfrogged the competition and changed the entire code to be skills-based matching. Now, instead of saying, 'Macy, have you ever been a journalist before? You haven't? OK, then for TechRepublic, you don't fit the criteria I set for that role.' Now, TechRepublic would say, 'In this role, we're looking for a writing skill set, storytelling, etc.,' everything that goes into your role," Novoselsky said. 

4. Invoke an employee referral program 

As Novoselsky said, diversity helps promote diversity. An employee referral program is an organic way to bring in new, diverse individuals. 

"If you have a homogeneous population of your workforce, you definitely don't want to use employee referral because they most likely have very homogenous, similar friends. But if you start seeing pockets of diversity, that's a great tool to go really and get some exponential impact because diversity, again, begets diversity," Novoselsky noted. 

On top of that, these programs actually help employees stay longer. "Employee referral is such a magical tool because the employee that you get from an employee referral is longer tenured." Novoselsky said. "They're happier because they come into a built-in ecosystem all ready for them."

Diversity only starts with employers that want to bring it in. Novoselsky said company leadership needs to ultimately be open minded about the process and focus on skills when hiring. 

For more, check out Women in tech are still paid less than men in most US states on TechRepublic.

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