Recruiting Women for Leadership

For every 100 men promoted to a managerial position, only 85 women are promoted to similar position and the gaps are larger for women of color. For example, this number decreased to 58 for black women and 71 for Latina women for managerial positions as of 2019.[2] Although organizations have shown steady growth recruiting women into leadership roles between 2015 – 2020, the pandemic erased many of those gains.[1]

Although women remain underrepresented in leadership roles, employers have another pressing issue to consider as well.  Because of the COVID-19 crisis, approximately two million women are contemplating leaving the workforce or taking an extended leave of absence.[3]  If this occurs, the discrepancies in leadership will widen dramatically. Not only do companies have to continue closing the gender gap in leadership, they must find a way to keep women in the corporate ranks as we adapt to this new normal post-pandemic.

Known Benefits of Women in Leadership

Numerous studies have shown that when women are well represented in leadership, “companies are 50 percent more likely to outperform their peers.”[4] Thirty-eight percent of senior-level women sponsor at least one woman of color, where only 23 percent of senior-level men do.  Further, more than 50 percent of senior-level women publicly champion gender and racial equity within their organization, compared to 40 percent of senior-level men.[5]

Additionally, when companies prioritize diversity and inclusion, such as including women in key positions, the company performs better.  For example, companies with more than 30 percent of women on their executive teams are “significantly more likely to outperform those with between 10 and 30 percent women, and these companies in turn are more likely to outperform those with fewer or no women executives.”[6] In other words, a significant performance differential exists – 48 percent – between organizations with the most gender representation at the top and the least diverse organizations.[7]

Steps to Implement Recruiting Policies for Women in Leadership

To continue closing the gender leadership gap while keeping women moving up the ranks post-COVID, employers need to champion women, from the top down, in creating effective policies and procedures that promote gender diversity.

In aligning with the best practices set forth below, organizations of all sizes should conduct a thorough review of their current policies and procedures, confirming that they are promoting gender diversity in this new work era.

Here are some best practices to implement:

  • Establish a non-discriminatory hiring program in writing.  Confirm that you are following all necessary employment laws, such as those related to race, disability, or the provision of genetic information.  Additionally, retain all documentation for at least one year.[8]
  • Confirm that you are honoring the applicable law in your jurisdiction regarding salary history.[9] With salary history ban laws emerging across the country, be sure to contact your employment attorney to make sure you don’t run afoul of the rules.
  • Focus on your written job descriptions, making sure you use “neutral” words.  For example, [u]sing certain words in your job description will discourage women from applying to your jobs. 44% of women (33% men) would be discouraged from applying if the word ‘aggressive’ was included in a job description and one in four women would be discouraged from working somewhere described as ‘demanding.’”[10] Choose your words carefully when promoting your open positions so not to turn away qualified candidates.
  • Integrate what matters most to your employees, especially in the post-pandemic world.  Would more flexibility make it easier for employees to balance work and home? Could mentoring help expose your employees to new skills and positions? Would including employees in developing diversity and inclusion programs give them more of a voice? By finding out what matters to your employees, you will secure buy-in from your employees, increasing their loyalty and engagement.[11]

Although the workplace has been turned upside, employers now have the opportunity to re-invent the wheel, so to speak, on employee engagement, promotion, and opportunity.  By giving your employees the tools the need to thrive, with robust gender diversity policies and procedures as the foundation, you’ll ensure representation of diverse skills and talents throughout the organization, while enabling fair and equal opportunity in all levels of leadership.


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] “Women in the Workplace- 2020,” McKinsey & Company and Lean In, 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace.

[6] [7] “Diversity Wins,” McKinsey & Company, May 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters

[8] “Guidelines on Interview and Employment Application Questions,” SHRM, May 2, 2018. https://shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/Pages/interviewandemploymentapplicationquestions

[9] Colletta, Jen. “Salary History: A Thing of the Past?” Human Resources Executive, February 5, 2018. https://hrexecutive.com/salary-history-thing-past

[10] “New Language Matters Gender Diversity Report,” LinkedIn, July 31, 2019. https://news.linkedin.com/2019/January/linkedin-language-matters-gender-diversity-report

[11] [11] Krentz, Matt. “Survery:  What Diversity and Inclusion Policies Do Employees Actually Want?” Harvard Business Review, Feb. 5, 2019. https://hbr.org/2019/02/survey-what-diversity-and-inclusion-policies-do-employees-actually-want

Categories: