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Attract more women: The answer to skilled labour shortages

By Samantha Louis, MBA APR CGMA, Vice President International Advocacy at The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Skilled workers are hard to find, and it’s not getting easier. The skilled labour shortage is expected to worsen throughout the 2020s. Prudent employers stand out in the marketplace by appealing more to women. 

Why focus on women? 

Women represent the largest block of untapped adult labour in the UK. Women’s participation in the labour force is 71.4%, compared to 80.3% for men. But the overall numbers obscure the real situation: 41% of employed women work part time, compared to 13% of men. Many women are university graduates, so why don’t more women hold full-time professional positions 

The answer lies with employers. Consciously or not, many have policies and practices that are unfavourable to women. 

Policy changes to consider 

Many employer policies unintentionally push women away. Take experience requirements: Most employers screen out applicants who have been out of the workforce for an extended periodAs a result, women who opt out of work whilst their children are young find it difficult to re-enter the workforce.  

Consider revising your organisation’s applicant screening policies to give more consideration to candidates who have recently completed professional training and job re-entry programs. Also, take a fresh look at your leave and part-time work policies. Many women value flexibility as much as their pay.  

How else can you appeal to women candidates? 

  • Perks targeting women 

  1. Generous parental leave — Many companies realise the challenge and make it easier to juggle work and parenthood. Salesforce provides up to 26 weeks of parental leave for primary caregivers and 12 weeks for secondary caregivers. Here are some companies with impressive parental leave policies according to Glassdoor 

  1. Emergency child care — Normal child care arrangements break down nine times a year for the average working parent, according to My Family Care Ltd. You can give working mothers peace of mind by contracting with an emergency child care agency. 

  1. Fertility treatments — Many women look for an employer who assists with fertility treatments. 

  1. Adoption assistance, parental support groups and professional development programs — These are other popular benefits among women. 

  • Retention programs 

    If your organisation is starting to shift focus to supporting women, begin by developing programs to reduce the turnover of female employees. Retention is as important as recruitment.

    Start by asking employees to rate current perks. Include a gender indicator that will allow you to see which benefits are already popular with women. Then ask them to rate potential perks. Don’t put anything on the list you’re not prepared to implement. Keep figures on female retention rates before and after implementation of new perks and policy changes. 

  •  Recruiting programs 

    Awards are good recruiting tools. Once you have strong programs for women, enter contests for awards that focus on women’s issues, such as parenting and equal pay. Publicise awards you’ve won via press releases, your career website and recruitment materials distributed at universities.  

    You may also want to ask new hires why they chose your organisation and include female empowerment as a selection. Track the results over time to see your progress.  

If you take these steps to attract more female candidates and retain more female employees, you will vastly expand your pool of skilled labour.