Second in a Series: Finding the Right Female Job Candidate

By Yvette Owo, HighQuest Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practice (November 9, 2021)

In this second part of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) series (see the first post here), author Yvette Owo, executive consultant, HighQuest Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practice, addresses some of the common questions from those looking to hire, respective of their DEI guidelines.


1). Where’s the best place to find the female experts I need to hire?


We sometimes forget the most practical resources – such as LinkedIn. For example, a company that came to me for assistance had been looking for black-owned marketing companies of a certain size for three months. They approached me two weeks before their publishing deadline, and they had only found three black-owned marketing companies after a month of searching.

I directed them to LinkedIn Sales navigator because you can filter for who and what you want. Within minutes of searching through possible CEO candidates, they had options.


This illustrates two key points:

  1. We sometimes forget the very simple solutions that are at our fingertips; and

  2. Linkedin is a powerful tool for identifying people in a particular role in an organization. We can go the next step further, for example, to examine if the person in that role is a woman or part of an underrepresented community.

Other simple solutions to reach that right hire for your position, are:

  • Make connections within women’s associations or organizations. Build your network so when you have an open position, you already have options available.

  • Post jobs in women’s networks, such as the WIA Career Connector offered by Women in Agribusiness. Be where the women are.

  • Connect with agricultural colleges and trade schools to capture young talent early. Maybe think of offering an internship.

  • Finally, hire consultants and recruiters whose specialty it is to match your specific needs with the right candidate.

2). What are other industries doing to appeal more to women?


For a bit of context, the workforce has changed a lot over the past 50-plus years so there is a far wider range of talent available to companies. Businesses that understand that respond by creating a place where this “new” talent wants to work, perform, achieve, and position themselves for success in a company that recognizes and rewards these efforts.


As a McKinsey report shows “organizations that have more gender diversity in top management are more likely to outperform less diverse competitors.”


Often organizations prioritize recruiting entry level talent but don’t focus enough on retaining their existing talent, or recruiting experienced women leaders.


Here are three initiatives companies have used successfully to recruit and retain women throughout the organization.

  1. Build a pipeline of women from specific undergraduate and graduate schools and even specific clubs at those universities.

  2. Establish Women’s Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) that provide social and business value to members – not just going out for drinks – but providing opportunities for mentorship, sponsorship, visibility to leadership, and even some difficult conversations. This way, leaders can hear directly from women employees about what obstacles they face, and the rewards in the organization can continue to become more merit-based.

  3. Identify key points where women may want more flexibility – temporarily or long-term – because of changes in their personal lives, and instead of exiting them, create opportunities for them to work in a different role for a year or the short period desired, or provide the option for them to move to a part-time or shared role.

The third one -- recognizing that people can still be very committed to the company yet need more work flexibility at certain periods in their lives – can create immense loyalty from employees to their job/company. Because when a company understands there is life outside of work that needs to be managed, and finds a way for employees to continue adding value in a different role, that can lead to years of employee retention. That holds true not just for women but for men.


Taking a step back for a moment, part of what the Great Recession is showing us is that people want their employers to respect their lives outside of work, and people want to feel fulfilled with what they spend most of their adult lives doing -- which is working.


Going back to creating more gender-balance organizations, companies also have noticed that the younger generation of entry-level hires is increasingly diverse. One company specifically looked at the numbers and noted that 51 percent of their non-executives were non-white men.


What does that mean? It means the talent pool available to run your business in 10 to 20 years will be far more diverse. They might be in their 20s and 30s now, but the expectation is that you need them to run the company in their 40s and 50s, so you need to retain them between now and then. Some highly effective tactics to help companies continuously attract and retain diverse talent are:

  • Sponsor/mentor employees in their current role;

  • Have managers work with employees to create a five-year plan/goals;

  • Create established pathways for two-way communication (and listen and learn!); and

  • Devise a robust succession plan and communicate leadership development opportunities.

That works for a wide range of people. I would also add that the next generation views DEI issues differently and expects to be listened to and heard, and allowed the chance to make, often substantial, changes to open new pathways to diversity.


3). How do we continue these difficult conversations?


No doubt, conversations about diversity in the workplace are still not easy to have, but it is becoming more commonplace, and now here we are having this discussion. Even if we are not where we want to be, talking about it means there's progress, and every generation is moving this forward as are innovative, engaged companies who realize that harnessing the skills of a diverse workforce brings more ideas to fruition and more success for their company.


Companies also have increasingly formed women’s resource groups with discussion forums that include senior and global leaders, as well as executive management. This willingness to include upper management in frank conversations about the often unnecessary challenges women face that limit performance and the meritocracy in the company, is recognized by employees and can bring about substantial change and progress.


Conversion without action becomes lip service. But setting up the difficult conversation, taking actions based on what your people need to thrive… that’s the type of leadership that is necessary to continue to drive this DEI conversation towards success in an increasingly diverse and competitive marketplace.


These strategies all provide motivation to adapt to the marketplace, with implementation resulting in a paradigm shift that creates meaningful traction in diversity in the workplace.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Owo is heading up the DEI consultancy practice with HighQuest Partners by helping companies realize increased diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as sustainable business profitability, process, and team improvements.

Previously, Owo had been a senior business strategy manager for more than a decade with Accenture, advising Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies on product launches reaching 1.6 million customers, managing strategic cost reduction programs of over $2 billion and M&A deals of more than $26 million, and also improving regional, national and global DEI initiatives and outcomes.

She teaches business strategy at the University of Texas at Austin, from where she also received degrees in business and political science. Owo is based in sunny Austin, Texas, and can be reached at yowo@highquestpartners.com.


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