Every company has its own unique approach to attracting talent, but in my 35 years of experience, there’s one piece of advice I’ve found to be universally important: Foster an accessible culture—for everyone.
It is no secret that business as a whole still tends to be seen as a male-dominated space, deterring many qualified female candidates. This attitude has unfortunately created issues that detract from the collaborative environment that companies, especially start-ups, need to be successful. Though there has been significant movement toward leveling the playing field, there is still much work that needs to be done, and it starts at the top.
For companies that are specifically trying to attract female employees, the most important advice I would offer is to work hardest to maintain an equal-opportunity work environment. It may seem like rudimentary advice, but I find it’s something many companies still struggle with.
Those entrepreneurs who have been in business for a long time may find old habits hard to break without a change in leadership or outside consultation. Start-ups, on the other hand, have the benefit of creating an equal-opportunity work environment at the foundational level and are usually supported by a perspective from a younger, more forward-thinking generation.
Try Offering Unique Benefits
There are also opportunities to promote equality in the workplace that may, at first, seem counterintuitive. For example, maternity leave has become an expected benefit and no longer a standout benefit for attracting female talent. But what about having a paternity leave policy?
This benefit is fairly underutilized in all industries, though it can greatly affect new mothers. Some female talent can feel that their maternity leave is viewed as a “privilege” rather than a necessity. When the benefits are equal, female employees can feel a stronger desire to grow their careers than older generations who still remember the archaic “homemaker” role for women.
Leaders Should Partner with Schools to Encourage Women to Pursue Technical Roles
Our educational system plays a role in creating equal opportunities for females, too. I would advocate that business leaders—especially young entrepreneurs—and educational leaders should be better collaborating on encouraging women to pursue technical fields.
Start-ups are often looking for highly qualified technical talent—a field that is dominated by males—and there remains a significant shortage of female technical talent to fill these roles in the labor market. I encourage start-up leaders to partner with local universities to gain insight into and access to up-and-coming talent and what they are being exposed to in the classroom. Again, change begins at the top.
Outside of higher education, we are seeing a significant increase in female-focused initiatives such as Girl Develop It that help women learn how to code and hone their computer science skills to position them as technical job candidates.
Having foundational knowledge and technical skills before entering the workforce allows females to pursue positions in start-ups and in other companies where a job might normally go to a male candidate. If you are looking to attract female talent as a start-up, these are organizations you should be aware of.
Provide Opportunities to Develop and Grow
Regardless of gender, candidates need to know there is room for growth and opportunity within a company before accepting a job. Executive leadership should actively provide these opportunities for growth and empower employees to pursue them.
This may seem like simple advice, and many employers believe they are already doing this within their company, but I often find this isn’t the case when employees are surveyed. Without proper assessment and evaluation of leadership practices and communication, there can be mismatched perceptions of company culture and employee benefits.
I have learned that speaking directly with employees is one of the best ways company leaders can understand their strengths and weaknesses to improve their work environment and to attract new talent.
There are many areas we can analyze that can help improve business practices, but it’s most important to look inward at start-up leadership. Every generation provides a unique and dynamic workforce, and if we actively and aggressively work to create a more inclusive environment, we can help attract and retain the right people—female or male—for the right jobs.
|Terry Williams, CEO and Chairman of ORS Partners, has extensive experience as a company builder, investor, and venture capitalist. As a talent leader and executive adviser, Williams is involved in investment and technology communities around the United States.
As a Managing Partner of NextStage Capital, a successful venture capital firm focused on financing start-up technology companies, Williams has a pulse on funding and growth with active investments and has led multiple successful exits in the market, including TWC Group, a recruitment process outsourcing firm that he sold to COMSYS/Manpower in 2007.
As a champion for venture-backed companies, Williams recognized the need for talent solutions within emerging growth firms and founded ORS Partners (ORS) in 2012. ORS is a subsidiary of Cross X Platform (CXP), Williams’ human capital shared services platform. ORS partners with venture-backed and emerging growth firms to provide a white-label recruitment solution to their complex talent acquisition problems.