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Women in Recruitment: Breaking Down Stereotypes and Empowering Each Other

March 9, 2020

Recruitment, once conceived as an industry of sales-focused, male-orientated roles, recruitment is now far more balanced and equal when it comes to gender roles. But what is it about recruitment that appeals to women? Are they drawn to the personal side of nurturing each candidate? Is it the shift away from the “hard sell” mentality that once dominated recruitment offices? Whatever the reasoning behind it, it’s pretty clear that in 2020 women in recruitment are breaking down stereotypes and empowering women to not only work well in this industry but to excel in roles that were previously dominated by men. Standing with each other this International Women’s Day, we discuss what the recruitment industry looks like for women in 2020, why providing diversity in recruitment is key and what it is that draws women to recruitment based roles.

What Does the Recruitment Industry Look Like for Women Today?

Your personal experience of the recruitment industry will have a very strong bearing on your opinion of whether the industry has changed to benefit women, however, there are some key markers that show that despite us being a long way away from complete equality, women in recruitment are breaking down stereotypes and leading the way for other industries. In fact, statistics have shown that employees who work under a female manager are 6 times more engaged in the workplace than if they were working under a male manager. In addition to this, women in leadership roles actually achieve 15% profitability from their team compared to men in leadership. And if you were to utilise the full potential of these two statements in the countrywide workforce then it would be worth £23 billion to the economy.

Now there could be many reasons as to why women are much more effective in leadership. It could be that women are better at multi-tasking and managing a varied work-load. Some say it’s due to a women’s ability to build a strong relationship with a candidate in a shorter timeframe than a man. Or if you are feeling cynical, it may be to do with women having to work harder to achieve these roles and are therefore used to excelling.

So, what has brought about this shift in the recruitment industry from a male-dominated environment to a more balanced, gender-equal environment? That is all down to the go-getters, the stereotype breakers and the ambitious women who refuse to hear “no”. The women who believe in themselves that they can do just as good a job (and let’s face it, probably better) as any man. The women who understand how much they bring to the table and how effectively they could use their talents. Women are solely responsible for changing this industries outlook, and now they are empowering others to do the same.

Louise Bibb

I would say being a female within recruitment is empowering. The sales industry has always typically been a male-dominated environment, although there has been a slight shift in females entering the industry, the long hours, “laddy” office culture worrying about work promotions would more than likely put someone off being a recruiter. However, Recruit UK has really surpassed the “norm” and allowed for work-life balance, myself starting as a graduate and now being a director, supporting on both a personal and professional basis has really helped me develop as an individual but also within my career. Our office is equally split, everyone is seen as equals, everyone encourages each other, and I think that is really important. To remove the, them and us. I love recruitment, I feel as though I am able to put a slightly different spin on the way I work. I think we tend to have a slightly more emotional understanding which in turn, helps with building long term and lasting relationships with both clients and candidates alike. Understanding each situation and providing an empathetic touch.

Gender Equality Today, Diversity Equality Tomorrow

Of course, getting women into these roles is one huge hurdle that, thanks to the pioneers before us, we have already overcome. But we are still a long way from complete gender equality. While some still struggle with the exact meaning of this term, others see that gender equality is NOT about treating men and women the same. It IS about providing equal opportunities for both genders, it’s about creating an environment which doesn’t isolate one gender over the other and it’s about ensuring that EVERYONE’S rights are respected.

The gender pay gap is an issue through almost all major businesses, but it is only one of the issues when it comes to gender equality. Opportunities for movement into leadership roles, allowances for those with caregiving commitments outside of work and flexible working for those coming into the workforce are all key areas of gender equality that still need to be resolved. In fact, over 66% of women working in recruitment say that they believe their caregiving commitments and time away from the workplace has negatively affected their career prospects.

Thankfully there are many recruitment companies in the UK that are addressing these gender imbalances and moving towards a more level playing field. There are more female recruitment business owners than ever before, making their companies much more family-friendly, forward-thinking and flexible. Gloria Steinem who is a journalist, activist and world-renowned feminist once said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” Women in the recruitment industry are coming together and putting their efforts into making this environment far more balanced and empowering for other women.

Elena Stephenson

Being a woman in recruitment is fun, competitive and feeds my drive for success. I really enjoy the industry and believe a lot of my more feminine qualities are what makes me stand out from other recruiters. This includes a natural desire to be organised and a high level of empathy which means I can understand my candidate’s motivations better and be sensitive towards their needs. These attributes mean us women may actually have an edge to our male counterparts. As the industry changes from being so male-centric it is also extremely empowering to be a woman in recruitment. It’s great to see that women’s voices hold just as much merit and importance as their male peers. My previous role in recruitment was much more male-dominated, something that I believed would be the case with most other companies as I continued my career within recruitment. However, meeting the team of Recruit UK for the first time was like a breath of fresh air. It’s inspiring being around successful and high-achieving women, as it demonstrates to myself that I am capable of doing the same with no limitations. It’s really exciting to see that male-dominated industries are evolving with Recruit UK at the forefront!

So, Where Next? How Else Can We Improve Equality and Diversity in Recruitment?

So now that gender equality is making positive steps forward in recruitment, where do we go next? In our day to day roles, we always ensure that we adhere to the Equality Act 2010 and that we try to open up all job opportunities to any and all suitable candidates, regardless of their ethnicity or background. But how does this relate to gender equality in recruitment? Well now that we have seen an increase in the number of women in recruitment, we need to focus on diversifying that talent pool. The skills to be an effective recruitment consultant can be found in women up and down the country who may not have been in employment for several years, they can be found in women who have come straight out of University or they may come in the form of women who have no previous work experience. They may come from all backgrounds, religions or ethnicities and the recruitment needs to be willing to help broaden their awareness and provide opportunities for these women.

Many recruitment companies are now working towards creating a diverse and respectful environment which will help women get back into the workforce, allow them to learn new skills and help them to grow in confidence so that they feel empowered to take that next career leap. A lack of confidence is one of the biggest reasons that women feel they can’t make the bold move forward into a leadership or senior role and this could be easily remedied with an empowering environment to boost morale and help other women to achieve.

Mentorship is a very useful tool to help empower women in recruitment, not just to help them on a day to day basis but to also help them push forwards and plan their career goals and course for the future. Understanding clearly the goals set and how to achieve them will empower women to take risks, push for that promotion and achieve more.

Charlotte Batten

Being a woman in recruitment is empowering! When I have successes, I feel very proud of myself and what I have achieved. I came from a female-heavy degree course, doing marketing, and we all supported each other in our course and finding our dream roles. When I told my university friends that I would be joining a recruitment firm, this was met with worry about it being a ‘sales’ environment and this, in turn, being a very male orientated office. However, I assured them that the firm I was working for was far from the typical recruitment companies. I attended a handful of interviews before I secured my placement at Recruit UK and I was always interviewed by men in suits who made me feel intimidated. I felt deflated and started to second guess my decision to go down the recruitment route. However, as soon as I stepped into my interview with recruit UK, with Louise and Keri – Ann, there was something so different about the way that this firm was run. I felt this powerful energy that everyone in the office supported one another, male or female. I know don’t think of the difference between men and women in recruitment because it isn’t something I have to think about whilst I am here. With such incredible women (and men) around me, I feel motived, driven and empowered to do my best and kick ass!

What Else Do Women Find Important at Work?

While we have spent a vast amount of time discussing how to empower women in the recruitment industry and how to create an environment that is both gender-equal and diverse, what is it that women actually find important in their roles working in recruitment?

  • A Sense of Belonging

We all want to feel like we are part of a team and for most women that includes the sense of belonging at work. If you are in a male-dominated office, then you can easily feel like an outsider. However, finding your sense of belonging doesn’t have to relate to your gender. It can be that you are working with like-minded people, people who have the same goals as you or even just people who are as good at their job as you are at yours! The sense of belonging is what you make of it, and if you continue to strive for something that isn’t going to happen then maybe a new environment is the solution.

  • A flexible working environment

With so many women having caregiving responsibilities (this could apply to children, elderly parents, disabled relatives, etc), it’s important to have an environment that is flexible and can help you to manage both your work and these responsibilities. Providing flexibility in hours, workload and candidate load will help women to excel rather than feel overwhelmed and overworked.

  • Recognition for their achievements

We all like to feel valued and for women, it is especially important. Ensuring that achievement and recognition are given frequently will ensure women are more likely to stay in their role, feel fulfilled and more likely to produce better results too.

  • A clear definition of their role and what is needed to achieve a promotion

Having a clear definition of your role doesn’t mean that you want to be told what to do, it is simply about a clear understanding of what is expected of you and what you need to achieve. Occasionally this can be mistranslated through the ranks and as such, women in junior roles aren’t sure of what their roles are. Having this frank and needed discussion will help to clear up any grey areas and allow you to concentrate on the task ahead with confidence. It will also help you to see what you need to work on in order to achieve that promotion.

Katie Mihaylov

I would say being a female in recruitment is definitely something that pushes you and it pushes you to work harder! It motivates me to do the best I can because there is still somewhat of consideration that sales, is assumed to be a male-dominated career, but that’s really not the case anymore. It’s great to see more and more women entering the industry and being successful. This in itself spurs me on. Recruit UK have been monumental in terms of my development as a recruiter and my career. When I initially joined just under 2 years’ ago I had real aspirations to step up into management, which I didn’t feel would necessarily be achievable in this time frame and definitely not anywhere else I worked as I feel there is an underlying stigma with being a young female in the industry. They delivered on their initial promise and through hard work and dedication, I’m now a Team Leader.

Recruitment really is a fantastic industry for women to be in thanks to the hard work and dedication of the pioneering women who have gone before us and who are still breaking down stereotypes and levelling the playfield for us all. If you feel that you are in a fortunate position in your workplace and feel you could help other women to do the best they can, why not offer to help mentor them and give them the boost of confidence they need to excel as well? Gender equality is moving forward in leaps and bounds, let’s all get behind it and keep the momentum going!


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