How to Attract More Female Job Applicants

Considerate adverts can make a big difference

This is the first in a series of blogs I am intending to write to help employers improve diversity and, in turn, the volume and quality of applicants, during the hiring process.

It's not something you can learn in a day or a week but the hope is that, if you're committed to attracting a more diverse workforce, I'll be able to support you in some small way.

This blog comes with a warning: It is not enough to make efforts to improve job applications from under-represented groups if your recruitment process is not also considered.

And then when you have hired, the need to ensure that those people feel heard, seen and accepted and that they have the same opportunities as others.

But one thing at a time.

To break up specific problems into manageable chunks, I'm hoping you'll be able to find what you need easily, absorb the solution in bite-size pieces then implement it without creating a to-do list that's so intimidating you put off making a start.

Why would you want to actively attract more female applicants?

What are the challenges that female workers face?

(1) Women are the primary carers within family units, which can take many forms but the obvious ones are raising their own children, supporting an elderly relative or helping out with childcare for grandchildren.

(2) They are paid less than men.

(3) Statistically women are more likely to scroll past a job advert rather than apply if they see something listed in the skills and experience that they're not completely confident in.

(4) With primary care responsibilities, come different work goals. Careers often take a back seat for a few years. But that doesn't mean "a job's a job".

(5) They are frequently overlooked for promotion.

(6) They often have to (or indeed want to) go home promptly after work and pick up those caring responsibilities again.

(7) Ensuring one's safety is a permanent concern for women.

(8) Working somewhere that supports starting a family.

(9) Enough holiday to support school holiday time and sick children sent home from nursery.

(10) Women leaders are set unrealistic expectations with unconscious bias around how they should look and behave. That they are not loud enough to be heard and when they attempt to balance authority with likeability, to adapt and survive, not only do they lose themselves but bear the brunt of negative language around their management style that men do not face.

See also these blogs in the aftermath of Jacinda Adern's resignation:

(11) Menopause: One in 10 women have left work because of symptoms of menopause, research has revealed.

How can I write my job adverts to address these challenges?

(1) Be sure to mention any flexible working policies.

Remote or hybrid working are not the only solutions so consider whether 37.5 hours could be worked over four days instead of five. Maybe someone can start early in the day and finish early or start later and either work through part of their break or finish later.

Maybe a solution could be found for someone to leave work early, say for school pickups, and log on to finish their working day at home.

(2) It is imperative that you list the salary for the job. Failure to do so is easily interpreted as you're wasting people's time (you wouldn't go to view a house without knowing what the asking price was) and that you might be prepared to 'cheat' the successful applicant out of a fair wage. Wide salary spreads are ambiguous also, with women more likely to be offered the lower end of the range. Be fair and transparent.

(3) It is never necessary to list the whole job's responsibilities in an advert, only the essential skills, otherwise you're just publishing the job specification which is an internal document. It's boring to read and suggests that you need someone who's doing an identical job instead of someone who's capable of picking up the tasks and being a valuable contribution to your team.

By listing only the essential requirements, you'll get a greater response rate generally but especially from females.

* Just be careful when sharing the job description before an interview that you've done the same, making it clear what is 'essential' and 'desirable' so you don't scare anyone off.

(4) A friendly, supportive work environment with the ability to grow at a pace that is comfortable is key here. Growth means different things to different people but at this point in time, it might be having the ability to learn new skills, working somewhere where people are trained and supported rather than thrown in at the deep end. And a business that is stable with longevity.

If this is the environment you can offer, make it clear.

"A fast-paced, growing firm" likely won't do the job, but "A well-established business offering a stable, supportive environment in which to grow and learn" will.

(5) If you are committed to giving women a voice in your business, make it clear.

If you have statistics you're proud of, where everyone has an equal opportunity to progress, use them in your advertising.

If you're here, reading this because this is an area you're working on, an equality statement is not enough to convince anyone, you need to be specific.

Maybe you have benefits and policies that support women in their rise to the top. Maybe that's study support with time off for revision and exams, and family-friendly policies like enhanced maternity or adoption leave (which say "you are welcome", "we want you to stay" and "we are investing in you").

(6) Businesses with a work hard, play hard culture will be unattractive here so no point in sugar-coating.

If you are such a business, I suggest looking at your culture which (I bet) is male-dominated.

Many organisations are tempted to list all their brilliant social activities, seeing this as a benefit - be careful it's intimidating to many people, including women with outside responsibilities and interests.

Mentioning the company's annual BBQ or Christmas dinner is one thing, but Friday after work down the pub and weekends away are not inclusive.

Improving your advert to attract females will say things like "The business encourages a healthy, friendly working environment with employees typically finishing promptly and we have a couple of funded fun company social events a year to get the team together without work pressures".

At Clarity, we ensure our social events are during the normal working day, fully financed, and not focused entirely on drinking alcohol. It means no childcare issues and 100% supported by the team.

(7) The subject of safety extends to serious issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace but let's keep it simple and address one area, which in turn sets the tone of the environment applicants could be working in.

Can this woman get to and from their place of work safely? 5.30 pm finish in January if it's a long walk to a multi-storey car park or hanging around at a bus stop in a remote location is frightening. Mention the well-lit on-site parking or the central location with reliable public transport links.

(8) Women need to know that they can stay with a business whilst planning a family.

This is a chance to mention all your lovely family-friendly policies, around IVF treatment, maternity, and adoption.

(9) Your flexible working policies have hopefully already been shared in the advert but employees with children struggle come school holidays with two-parent families sharing responsibility somehow making it work, to the amazement of the rest of us.

Single parents, however, will find this especially challenging. Getting someone to step in when you can't, often means paying for it, which adds to a terrible financial burden.

Do you offer statutory holidays only? It's not enough for many people and amending your policies to increase this by two or three days can make a difference, as can earning more holiday with time served and a flexible benefits package that lets employees 'buy' holiday.

If the role you're hiring for is especially challenging to fill, can you make an exception?

By the way, if you're only offering statutory holiday entitlement, there's no point in mentioning it as a benefit - it's not. It's the bare, legal minimum and you can omit it from the advert.

(10) Women are unfairly stereotyped in the workplace and research still suggests that women are not taken seriously as leaders. "Some people who don’t consider themselves sexist believe that because the world is sexist, women leaders are likely to be weaker."

If you're looking to attract women into senior roles within your organisation and already have women in leadership, mention it. "We're proud that our board of directors is representative of men and women, and we're continuously working towards being more diverse and representative of society".

If your 'Meet the team' page on your website is a sea of faces belonging to middle-aged white men, this won't be possible to claim. But taking on board all my other tips mean a woman will read the advert and see a host of inclusive women-friendly policies, therefore an inclusive environment, and more likely to believe in your efforts to diversify your senior management team.

(11) We're finally talking about it, thanks to people like Mariella Frostrup and Davina McCall. And you might think a job advert cannot be used to attract women with this as a concern.

If you're choosing to make a statement in your advert around the fact you're an 'equal opps employer' you can go as far as to demonstrate this by mentioning your training and policies around menopause.

And that all-important flexible working we've already covered. It gives women the ability to choose to work around their symptoms and attend support networks and medical appointments during the day, whilst remaining committed and present in their jobs rather than having to choose between work and well-being.

What peri-menopausal and menopausal women need is a workspace where they can operate efficiently without having to do too much explaining to their colleagues about embarrassing symptoms and appointments.

You might also find this blog useful:

Reducing the Chances of a Bad Hiring Decision

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.