Four ways to recruit more women for the top jobs at your NFP

Female worker in an office

How many women are in the top roles in your organisation or on your board of management?

A 2012 report from Women on Boards found that while up to 85% of community sector workers are female, there only about 60% in senior paid positions. From a volunteer perspective, despite volunteers in Australia having traditionally been mostly women, only about 50% of board directors in not-for-profit organisations are female.

While on both counts the statistics are better than public and private sector counterparts, there is definitely room for improvement, particularly when it comes to recruiting staff and volunteers at senior levels.

Which is what makes a new study from the Technical University of Munich so interesting! The study has found that some job ads use language that could be deterring female applicants.

Could your organisation’s job ads be turning away the best candidates for you roles? Here are four things you can do to make sure your next recruitment drive has the widest possible appeal:

1) Choose your words carefully

The Technical University of Munich study found that on of the factors that can deter women from applying for certain roles, is the choice of words in job ads and position descriptions.

The study found that female test subjects were put off by descriptive words and phrases that are more traditionally masculine. The use of words like “assertive”, “aggressive” and “analytical” resulted in women being less likely to apply for certain roles.

On the other hand, words like “dedicated” and “responsible” were more appealing to women.

Choosing your words wisely could open up your applicant pool considerably.  Given that the study found that word choice made no difference to whether or not men would apply, you really have nothing to lose.

2) Recognise the confidence gap

A recent article in US magazine The Atlantic highlighted the tendency for highly capable and accomplished women to feel insecure about their abilities. This common phenomenon is one theory as to why women don’t put themselves forward for a promotion or ask for pay rises.

You can counteract this in your own organisation by creating a culture for current employees that promotes confidence, particularly amongst your female staff. By recognising the achievements of your staff on a regular basis, ensuring they take credit where it is due and promoting an environment where all people are encouraged to put their ideas forward without fear of failure, you can go some way towards encouraging more female workers to apply for senior roles in your organisation when they come up.

Other ideas that can help to close the confidence gap for women in your organisation could include;

  • The establishment of a mentor program where up-and-coming leaders are matched with a more senior staff member to learn the ropes early
  • Creation of a women’s group that provides a safe space for women to discuss challenges they might be facing at work and provide a strong support network
  • Don’t assume that a great employee will apply for that upcoming promotion. Considering tapping female employees on the shoulder if promotions are coming up to give them encouragement to apply for roles.  You can even offer to talk them through why you think they would be a great applicant.

3) Promote how inclusive your workplace is

There are many barriers to women moving up in the workforce, not least of which is that they still do the majority of unpaid labour like childcare and housework!

Including information in your job ad highlighting how you can recognise and support the unique position women face could help to break down these barriers.

  • Do you have flexible working hours?
  • Do you have a good carers leave program?
  • Does your workplace have a parenting or women’s support group?
  • Is your office located near a school or childcare centre?

Highlighting the positive ways in which your organisation supports female workers may stop women from automatically discounting themselves from certain roles due to their situation.

4) Get input

If you’re a male HR manager or recruiter and you’ve written a job ad and position description, make sure you get a female worker to look over it first. Having a fresh set of eyes from someone from your target audience will help to identify things that may be off-putting to female candidates.

You can even take this further by making sure women are well represented in all parts of your organisation’s recruitment process including the shortlisting and interviewing.

Do you have more tips for how NFPs can be more proactive in attracting female applicants, particularly for senior roles? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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