5 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Find and Hire More Women

August 19, 2014

As more and more companies reveal the demographic breakdown of their workforce (like Google and LinkedIn recently did), it’s becoming painfully obvious that all of us have a lot of work to do to build out more diverse workplaces. One priority that’s increasingly urgent is ensuring gender diversity in the office.

According to The Boston Consulting Group report from 2011, “Hard-wiring diversity into your business,” a few key trends will create critical mass for hiring more women:

1)    Purchasing power is shifting increasingly into women’s hands and therefore it only makes sense for B2C companies to have a workforce that reflects their heterogeneous customer base.

2)    After centuries of male dominance, women now outnumber men in both university attendance and graduation. As Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé, points out, sustaining elevated rates of GDP growth creates a high demand for labor and it’s just not smart to exclude >50% percent of the talent.

3)    A third point I’ll add from Sallie Krawcheck, Chair of the Elevate Network, a global professional women's network, is that diversity is a great driver to eradicate groupthink, which she saw as a key reason for the global financial crises in 2008. Diversity helps stimulate innovation.

Looking at the above trends and the meritocratic organizations many of us are a part of, I personally don’t think the issue is about dearth of talent at the entry level or even the supposed glass ceiling that keeps qualified women from reaching the top. I see the problem more in losing this section of talent somewhere along the way, when family responsibilities catch up. Therefore, we probably need to make an extra effort in attracting these candidates and ensuring they stay and grow.

Here are my 5 tips on using LinkedIn to attract and retain women in the workforce:


1. Tap into“women in business” clubs and women’s college alumni.

Many business schools around the world have a “women in business” club. Search for this phrase in the keyword search section of LinkedIn.com, LinkedIn Recruiter or in LinkedIn Groups and further refine it by the skills and specialization that you’re hiring for.

You could also search for alumni from women-only colleges in the open for all LinkedIn.com university section.


2.  If you’re using LinkedIn Recruiter, it’s even easier. You can search the entire LinkedIn network by creating a Boolean string in the advanced search section.

One search trick I find really interesting is inspired by Glen Cathey’s LinkedIn diversity sourcing tips on using keywords such as ‘she’ or ‘her’. Some members describe themselves in third person in the summary or experience section and there is a high likelihood of these keywords appearing in women’s recommendation section. I have discovered that the Boolean string (she AND her) seems to provide more accurate results than (she OR her). Do try it out as I did below.


Let’s take another example of finding women on maternity breaks. Here are some keywords you can use: “maternity break” OR “maternity leave” OR “personal break” OR “parental break” OR "career break" OR sabbatical OR break OR "time off". See the initial results and fine-tune your search string with the skills needed, using the Boolean modifier AND, and eliminate common keywords that aren’t relevant using the modifier NOT.



3. Open up internships or contract roles for women who have been out of the workforce for awhile.

I came across a really interesting initiative by Philips India called Back in the Game. The program offers women an opportunity to get back into the workforce after an extended career break (maternity or personal leave). Some of the big upsides that make this a truly meaningful program are:

  • Strategic and live projects that would be appealing enough to get someone off their current break. A new mother, for example, would want something exciting enough to consider dividing her time between work and home.
  • A flexible environment to ease the transition.
  • A mentor for grooming and leadership development.

Such an arrangement gives both the cautious employer and employee time to be sure before either makes a longer-term commitment. This internship was not only advertised on their career website, but also across social media like LinkedIn and job boards. I’m not even a mother yet and I found it!

4. Showcase your culture and brand - highlight your existing female leaders through blogs, employee testimonials and social ads.

To really be an inclusive organization, your business leaders and HR teams are going to have to work together in building the right policies, programs and initiatives. It is equally important to showcase the success of those initiatives by highlighting existing role models to the outside. Take a look at how Hindustan Unilever Limited does this beautifully with Work With Us ads and celebration banners.





5. Join or start relevant groups and conversations.

There are more than twenty six thousand Groups on LinkedIn with the keyword ‘women’, some of which are very active. Join the group(s) that seem most relevant, contribute to them and even post your jobs there. If your organization is thinking big, you could even start your own Group.
A group you should want to check out is Connect: Professional Women's Network, Powered by Citi. It has more than 340K members, ranging from young adults to directors and above. I will caution though that it has a much higher American representation (320K) than global (UK & India represent >3K members respectively).

These are my 5 tips, based on ideas I’ve read about, tried or discovered. Do share yours on twitter at @HireOnLinkedIn and let’s keep the conversation going.

how to recruit on linkedin