As someone who has been the only woman in many of the industries I have been a part of, I often think back at why that was appealing to me. Sometimes I simply scratch my head and have no answer and other times I know it was more than the position or industry that brought me in…to me it was all about the culture. When I speak or train or am asked to help a company bring more women into their business, I go back and see if their invitation to invite women in is the message they are sharing.
When I started out in my sales career, I was not hired for my intellect or sales ability…I was going to be the face of the company. I would always have an expert with me. Basically I had to show up, dressed in a skirt and…just show up. There was nothing more than that. The culture was not female centric, the language used was not female centric and the industry, roofing, certainly was not. And yet I was hired, was successful but didn’t make this my career. I was simply a check mark in the female column, plain and simple. The culture was not going to change and I had to make the decision that it wasn’t right for me.
Flash forward years later where I entered a different industry, Insurance…again the only female among a sea of men. I asked a ton of questions and was dubbed the Question Queen, and was told I was such a girl, had to be friends with everyone, and took too long on appointments-translation I was building relationships and never had to cold call again. I created a business based 100% on referrals. As my production grew, so did their interest in me and I was promoted to my new role…Agency Manager. Now I had the ability to create an environment that was welcoming to women. Think about it…if women are known for their relationship building quality and insurance is one of the biggest relationship driven industries, wouldn’t it make sense to reach out to this demographic? Why was 1+1 not equaling 2? It seems I did a lot of head scratching in my career.
It was time for a change and I was going to do that, whether I was liked or not, popular or not or heard…or not.
Here’s how I created a culture that was inviting to women…IF they were the right candidate. Just because a woman shows up, you want them to do more than check that box…as I did in my first sales position. This holds true whether you are adding to your team, your business or your company.
- Do you know who you are looking for? Yes you can say women, and yes you are eliminating 50% of the population but who is that woman? What is her demographic? Why are you looking for her? What are some of the qualities she may have that you are looking for? Whether I’m doing executive coaching or training for companies, this is one of the first things I do with them… “Who is your perfect person?” It is amazing how when you do a little homework or preparation, you will be able to “see” who they are.
- Where Are You Looking For Them? You have to be ready both online and offline. There are job fairs, networking events, relationships you have built and of course the internet and social media. You are able to create ads that speak directly to your perfect person. You are able to work with the professionals that can point to your perfect person and you have more ways of attracting, connecting and targeting exactly who your company or business is looking for. You can build relationships online before you ever have to let people know you are looking… And trust me, having an amazing candidate in the wrong environment can be a nightmare and many times a waste of talent. Plus, we all know how quickly word travels and if it’s not good, the last word you want attached to that experience is viral.
- Now that there is that initial attraction…the butterflies in the stomach-what are you doing that is telling her to take the next step? Enter the detective stage. This is where women become detectives. They’ve got the interest and now the question is, are you going to disappoint her or continue with the process? Are you showing things that are of interest to her such as…? Your Corporate/Business Home Page-This should go beyond merely posting jobs and describing what you do. Your “About” page should also reflect your culture. For example, use quotes from your female employees or team members about their experience with coworkers, as a mentor/protégé and some of their experiences in the company.
- Is there anyone like her being featured? Maybe it’s a woman in a position that she may look for in the future. Or maybe it’s a new shining star? Are there articles that would capture her attention? Can you get her to stay on the page more than 3 seconds or did you miss the mark?
- Will she fit into the culture or is she going to be the square peg in the round hole? Is there anyone who looks like her or someone she can relate to? Will she have to take on the role of trail-blazer and does she even want that? What matters to you doesn’t necessarily matter to her…at least not in the same way and not yet- Instead of describing the career path, explain how it will fit into her life. Will it allow her to grow professionally and still have a personal life? And don’t just talk about your management team’s accomplishments in a vacuum. Instead, explain how their success will help drive her success.
As Brian Chesky of Airbnb said, “A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneur’s job is to build the foundation.”