Inclusiveness is a topic we hear a lot about lately, and when it comes to the workplace, building an inclusive culture can center on a wide range of stakeholders and initiatives. One focus area is moving women through the talent pipeline, particularly in careers related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) but also in other fields.
HR can play a key role in opening the talent pipeline so that more women flow through to the top. Here are ten ways to do this:
- Build a business case for diversity and inclusion—and be sure to include women. Every organization needs to create a talent pipeline in order to hire the best and the brightest today and tomorrow. With changing demographics, this requires developing relationships and a positive employment brand for employees from different backgrounds.
- Add inclusion to your organization’s strategic plan. Ensure that the entire organization understands why inclusion—including female candidates and employees—is critical to the long-term success of the organization.
- Add diversity and inclusion to your organization’s core competencies and your performance management criteria. Inclusion is more than women, of course, but it needs to specifically include women if that is the category of diversity that your organization lacks. When inclusion is one of your core competencies, it is woven into recruiting, manager development, performance management, succession processes, and other stages of the talent life cycle.
- Create a long-term recruiting strategy to attract more women to your field and ultimately to your organization.An example of a long-term strategy for moving women into STEM careers is to have your organization sponsor a weeknight homework hotline for students. Even as early as grade school, female students need to know that there is a future for them in STEM industries. That requires reaching out to female students (through tools such as the hotline) and encouraging them to sign up for required high school classes such as chemistry, physics, calculus, and so on. Whether you use your own employees to staff the hotline (this can be a meaningful volunteer activity) or tap into a local college, the result will be more high school students prepared for STEM majors. Another example is to sponsor scholarships to help female students attend college in a STEM major. Follow up by developing a relationship with each student: visit her, invite her for a tour, introduce her to potential role models, offer an internship, and give her a job interview when she graduates.
- Create a short-term recruiting strategy for new grads. Sponsor a student professional organization chapter or create your own student-level professional organization to get to know students in the right majors. Invite the chapter to meet on your premises, give members a tour, introduce them to potential role models, offer internships, and communicate about job opportunities.
- Prominently feature women engineers, accountants, chemists, and similar professionals on your website and in your social media. Whether you simply feature them in a video clip about “why I work for XYZ Corporation” or have them discuss a current project and the impact it’s having, introduce female faces to the public.
- Feature your female leaders—or bring in national or state-level female leaders—at staff meetings, awards presentations, and similar events.
- Reexamine your recruiting process to be sure that every effort is made to have at least one female candidate among the talent pool for any position. Yes this is extra work, but it’s well worth it. If you don’t interview women, you won’t hire women. Source female candidates from college alumni rosters, local professional organization chapters, LinkedIn, national professional organization websites, online chat rooms, and more. Connect to as many females in your field as possible on LinkedIn and push out your job openings to them.
- Using internal or external mentors, develop the emerging women leaders in your organization. Many communities have professional organizations with trained cadres of women mentors in search of protégés. Seek out consultants with a track record of success who help organizations to set up targeted mentoring programs. Then offer a mentor as a benefit—because it is one!
- Ensure that succession planning reaches down throughout the organization and that women at all levels are developed for future positions. Too often succession planning stops at the top. Preparation for next steps can be a recruiting tool and a retention tool.
As you look to build an inclusive culture, keep these ideas top of mind. They’re great tools to help draw women to roles that have typically been male-dominated. And of course you can also apply many of the concepts to attracting and hiring other diverse groups, which will continue to add strength to your organization.
Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Business Development Consultant for FlashPoint, an international talent management consulting firm, and the author of three books, including Competing for Talent.