Problems with diversity targets

Tasman Broekman-Dattner


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An increasing trend by Australia internal TalentAcquisition (TA) functions is the application of gender diversity targets on the recruitment shortlists for their organisation.

Hiring managers are asking for more women candidates to appear on every shortlist. The intention is admirable and appropriate, however, some fundamental issues arise from adopting this approach.

The first is time. Hiring managers adopt these diversity expectations without appreciating just how much additional time it takes to source women candidates, particularly for technology and sales-related roles. This puts the TA consultant under considerable extra pressure, often resulting in them submitting a shortlist of women candidates with profiles weaker than their male counterparts.

This can result in women candidates investing their efforts into a recruitment process for which success may be unlikely. Despite the best of intentions by all, women are effectively set up to fail. Worse still, women may end up being hired into a role simply because they are a woman and not on merit.

The second issue is the recruitment approach. Not making changes to the fundamental approach translates into simply doing (much) more of the same thing while hoping for a different result (i.e. sourcing more women)— this strategy, of course, simply circles back to the first issue… time.

The Solution

Resolving this issue requires a two-pronged approach:

First is education - hiring managers need to understand the resource impact of their requests and expectations. Once they know that the percentage of women in technology sales, for example, are limited and needing more time to fill a role, they may become a little more flexible in their requirements.  

WGEA Data and LinkedIn Talent Insights can provide qualitative data to assist your conversations.


The second solution is the recruitment approach.Recruitment processes to attracted talented women candidates should stand on three essential foundations:

1.    Trust

2.    Safety

3.    Meaningful contribution

There are many different elements and expressions that reside within each one of these foundations.

Trust may refer to trusting my resume will be given appropriate review, trust that my profile won’t be shared with others without my permission, trust that my current employer couldn’t somehow be made aware of my proactive job search. Trust that I will be treated fairly.

Safety can refer to something as simple as suitability for the role. Do I meet enough of the criteria? If I don’t have one or two of the key selection criteria, will I be judged as not good enough? I sit safe to apply? How does the Talent Acquisition consultant present on LinkedIn? Do I feel comfortable meeting this person?

Meaningful contribution refers to how much the opportunity or organisation positively contributes to people and the world at large. Research suggests women are drawn towards roles where their input meaningfully contributes to the wellbeing of others or the environment. Roles with a clear sense of purpose, elements of caring for key stakeholders (team, customers),making a positive difference to the world will all attract women candidates more than typical tropes like “great remuneration”, “vibrant culture”, although these may also be attractive elements.

Men too, are drawn to roles that make a positive contribution, however, for women, the draw can be stronger, and men may be more inclined to be attracted by the remuneration aspect (for more insight into this research, check out “That’s What She Said”, by Joanne Lipman, on the bookstore).

Understanding these prevailing paradigms will better inform your engagement approach, languaging, and how you frame the opportunity. You will find that this improved understanding will better support the recruitment process, interviewing techniques and discussion points, ongoing follow up and much more.  It may even prompt you to change your LinkedIn picture to make it a little congruent with these ideas.

This wisdom, developed from hundreds of hours in women’s leadership programs, coaching sessions and recruitment processes, shapes how we do what we do at Kacha.

For more information, get in touch with the team at Kacha.  


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