What is key to the fight for female talent? - Preparing you for the future of work.

What is key to the fight for female talent?

To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) last Wednesday the 8th March 2017, PwC has released a new report 'Winning the fight for female talent: How to gain the diversity edge through inclusive recruitment' which looks at what employers can do to attract and retain female talent and underscores the importance of embedding diversity and inclusion into the employer brand.

PwC surveyed 4,792 professionals (3,934 women, 845 men) with recent experience of the jobs market from 70 countries and from different organisations to find out about their career aspirations and employer diversity experiences and expectations. In parallel, PwC surveyed 328 executives with responsibility for diversity or recruitment strategies in their respective organisations to explore current diversity trends and practices within employer attraction and selection activities. In South Africa, 191 respondents took part in the survey.

Female and male respondents ranked opportunities for career progression among the top three employer traits, along with competitive wages and flexible work arrangements. Female career starters and female millennials identified this as the most attractive employer trait, as did women overall in Brazil, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and the UAE. The report also found that women who had recently changed employers said a lack of opportunities for career progression was the top reason they left their former employer (Global: 35%; South Africa: 43%).

Worldwide, organisations still have some way to go on the journey to gender-inclusive recruitment. In most countries around the world, women still remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline, with the gap becoming more pronounced at each level of seniority. It is despairing that the rate of progress has been so slow, and even more alarming that it will take 170 years for gender equality to be achieved in the global work force at the current rate of advance, according to World Economic Forum estimates.

Despite these statistics, women make up a vital talent pool in the work force. CEOs and business leaders are increasing their efforts toward greater female recruitment in an effort to win the war for talent and plug the gaps and in today’s skills crunch, as well as gain competitive advantage.

The good news is that 80% of employers have aligned their diversity and recruitment strategies. This is critical, as diversity efforts operated in a silo will not help to achieve established diversity goals. To achieve this, they will need instead to be aligned and embedded within the critical people and business activities across the entire organisation.

According to the report, organisations are using innovative programmes to attract key female talent. For example, returnship programmes are proving to be a successful bridge for talented professionals to return to work after an extended career break. Over a quarter (28%) of employers have already adopted a formal returner programme, and a further 25% are currently exploring this opportunity, suggesting employers are recognising the potential of these programmes.

In South Africa, the most significant barriers to increased levels of female hires in the market are: the impact of gender stereotypes in the recruitment process (44%), concerns over the cost of and the impact of maternity leave (41%), and some females said their industry was not viewed as attractive to women (21%).

An inclusive talent brand: not an option but an imperative

The survey revealed that just over three quarters (76%) of employers have incorporated diversity and inclusion into their employer brands and this rises to 88% of companies with more than 10,000 employees.

But the report also highlights that just talking about diversity as part of an employer brand is no longer enough. When deciding whether or not to work for an employer, over half (56%) of women are looking to see active diversity progress. This rises to 61% for female career starters. Meanwhile, 61% (South Africa: 59%) of women and 49% (South Africa: 50%) of men look at the diversity of an employer’s leadership team when deciding to accept their most recent position.

The survey results show that 67% of women explored if their employer had positive role models who were similar to them when deciding to accept their most recent position, rising to 76% for female career starters. This factor was particularly important to women working in sectors that are widely regarded as relatively male-dominated, such as FinTech (85%), Engineering and Construction (82%) and Asset Management (78%).

The message is clear: organisations should walk their diversity talk or face contending with increased difficultly attracting talent, particularly female talent.

An escalating fight for female talent  

The report highlights we are seeing organisations across the world inject greater urgency into their gender diversity efforts. Explicit hiring targets have emerged as a core driver in fulfilling these ambitions with 78% of large organisations around the world saying they’re actively seeking to hire more women, especially into more experienced and senior level positions. As organisations fight to attract female talent, particularly at levels and in sectors where they’re currently underrepresented. We’re now seeing competition for female talent escalate to a whole new level.

To win the fight for female talent, it is not enough for employers to have an attractive talent brand: it is also vital that they have an inclusive talent brand. Understanding how the organisation is perceived in this regard is the first critical step. Employers need to recognise the fact that diversity and inclusion raises reputational risks they cannot afford to ignore and that their diversity record is under close and constant scrutiny, not only from the talent they need to attract and retain, but also from customers, investors, stakeholders and increasingly governments and regulators.

This is why an inclusive talent brand is no longer a nice-to-have option but an imperative for business success.

Dion Shango is the CEO and Nana Madikane is the Diversity and Inclusion Leader of PwC Southern Africa.


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