8 Tips to Improve the Gender Diversity of Your Recruiting Pipeline

May 28, 2019

When it comes to hearing about new career opportunities, women are just as interested as men. LinkedIn’s recent Gender Insights Report revealed that 88% of women are open to new job opportunities compared with 90% of men, and they view jobs in almost equal numbers.

But despite these similarities, something happens between the awareness and application stages. LinkedIn’s data shows that women are 16% less likely than men to apply for a job they’ve viewed, often because they feel that they’re not 100% qualified for the role. And since a woman’s chances of being hired are essentially zero if she is the only female finalist for a role, nurturing a healthy gender balance from the get-go can help ensure more women make it through the pipeline to the other side.

To fix any leaks in your pipeline, here are eight simple steps you can take to create and maintain more gender balance in the crucial early stages of the hiring process.

1. Assess your company’s current gender split to start setting realistic goals at every level

Before setting any gender diversity goals for your company, it’s important to know what your current gender ratios look like. This makes it easier to set realistic yet aspirational targets and track the success of your strategies.

First, dig into your company’s data to get a clear idea of your overall gender split. Then go even deeper, looking at how you’re doing across specific departments, functions, and seniority levels to identify your main areas for improvement. If your company is near a 50:50 gender split overall but female representation plummets at the management level and above, the company-level figures won’t tell the complete story.

You can use LinkedIn Talent Insights to assess the breakdown of your workforce in seconds. This tool also enables you to compare how you stack up to industry averages, which may inform your strategies and goals. If you’re in an industry that struggles with female representation as a whole, for example, you might choose to set moderate targets, at least at first. But if you’re lagging behind your competitors, it may be time to develop a more aggressive strategy.

2. Tailor your employer brand to appeal to a broad audience and showcase your commitment to diversity

Your employer brand may be what tips the scales for women who are wavering about applying to your company. The Gender Insight Report found that men and women are almost equally likely to want to learn about your culture first, with 41% of women and 42% of men using LinkedIn to research your company before deciding to apply.

To encourage more women to hit the apply button or respond to your outreach, be sure that your commitment to diversity comes across on all your employer branding channels. This includes your career site, the Life section of your LinkedIn Company Page, and any social media platforms you use to promote your culture and jobs.

One way to do this is by sharing plenty of authentic stories and pictures of women at your company. While you can showcase female employees at all stages of their career, highlighting women in leadership roles can be especially powerful. It’s harder to imagine yourself in a role if no one else who holds that position looks like you, so female leaders can serve as role models for female candidates.

Once you've strengthened your employer brand, you can get it in front of more people by using Sponsored Content on LinkedIn. This can help you build awareness among the diverse audiences you want to reach by putting relevant ads directly in their LinkedIn feed, encouraging them to visit your newly refurbished Company Page or careers site to find out more about working at your organization.

3. Ensure your job posts are inclusive by removing gender-coded language and trimming your requirements

After you’ve hooked candidates with your exceptional employer brand, you should use job posts to serve as the bridge from interest to investment. But there are lots of little ways that job descriptions can inadvertently put women off, so it’s important to be mindful of these factors. Sometimes, it comes down to word choice. Take words like dominant, outspoken, and rock star. Since these terms typically have masculine connotations, they’ve been shown to make women less likely to want to apply.

Give your job descriptions a final read-through before you post to make sure you’ve scrubbed them of any potentially off-putting language. Alternatively, you can run them through Textio, TapRecruit, or Talvista, augmented writing platforms that highlight gender-coded words and phrases and suggest gender-neutral alternatives.

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Related: This Job Description Heatmap Shows You What Candidates Really Care About (and What They Ignore)

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You can also increase the likelihood of female candidates applying by revisiting your list of job requirements. Women feel they need to meet more qualifications than men do before applying. So if your list includes some requirements that are nice to have but nonessential, you could be hurting your pipeline without even realizing it.

Instead of lumping everything you want under the requirements list, consider having a separate list of “preferred qualifications” to clearly signal the difference between a requirement and an added bonus.

You may also want to remove seniority requirements. Since female representation tends to drop steadily between entry-level positions and the C-suite, these requirements can be a barrier to entry for many qualified female candidates. Instead, give plenty of detail around the daily tasks and objectives of the job to help women self-select whether or not the role is right for them.

After a job post is live, be sure to track your view-to-apply ratios. LinkedIn Jobs lets you monitor your conversion rate by gender, so you can spot if something isn’t working and make adjustments on the fly.

4. Consider adding a salary range and detailing your flexibility policies in your job descriptions

Another way to encourage more women to apply is to include a salary range in your job description.

LinkedIn found that 68% of women say it’s important information for them when they’re considering a job. Since gender pay gaps exist across virtually every industry, this step can help build trust very early in the process, letting female applicants know that you’re committed to transparency and fairness.

If your company offers flexible work options, highlight those as well, as they may make all the difference for some women. Being able to work from home some or all of the time — or having the option to fit work hours around other commitments — can be especially valuable to new mothers transitioning back into the workforce and to women who are caregivers for sick family members.

The best thing about these policies is that they’re appealing to candidates across every demographic. So while they may open the door for more female applicants, they’re also a perk that many male candidates will be interested to learn about too.

5. Use data to find diverse talent pools and explore untapped markets

Rather than waiting for a diverse slate of candidates to apply, you can take a proactive approach and go out looking for them. But to source more diverse candidates, it helps to know where those candidates live. And to find this out, you’ll need to dive back into the data.

You can use LinkedIn Talent Insights for this too. Using the Talent Pool report feature, you can immediately identify U.S. cities that have a good gender balance for the type of talent you want to recruit. This can help you spot untapped talent pools, allowing you to explore candidates who might be willing to relocate to your region.

Talent Insights can also reveal industries that have a better gender balance — so you may even be able to identify promising candidates with the right skills in a different industry than your own. Candidates are often open to a change in career, so this can be a great source of talent that your competitors aren’t yet aware of.

6. Plug a list of women’s colleges and universities into your Boolean searches to quickly identify diverse talent

As you search for diverse talent on LinkedIn, your Boolean strings can do a lot of the hard work for you. But using generic terms like “women” probably won’t deliver the kind of results you want. Instead, sourcing master Glen Cathey recommends finding a list of women’s colleges and universities and using them to build your Boolean string.

Simply insert the search operator OR between the name of each school, add parentheses around the complete list, and add other search terms, such as a job title, after the list with the search operator AND to narrow down your results. Your finished string should look something like this:

("Scripps College" OR "Agnes Scott College" OR "Wesleyan College" OR … ) AND "Software Engineer"

You can also try swapping out college names for names of sororities, since these will often produce female college grads with the skill set you’re looking for. And if you want to extend your search beyond candidates with college degrees, plugging in a list of female-friendly associations and organizations can also do the trick.

7. Analyze your source of hire to ensure they’re producing a diverse pool of candidates

Whether you find most of your candidates through LinkedIn, referrals, or somewhere else, keep an eye on the gender breakdown of these sources. If one source is leading to a lot of hires who are mostly men, you may need to step in and make a course correction.

Referrals, for example, are a prime source of quality hires for many companies, but are more likely to bring male candidates into the pipeline than female ones. This is especially true if your workforce is currently made up of more men than women, since people tend to network with those similar to themselves.

In this case, educating your employees about your company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives can help them think more broadly when looking at their network, helping to curb unconscious bias. Some companies also incentivize referrals of candidates from underrepresented groups to show their commitment to their D&I goals.

8. Track your outreach and response rates by gender and make meaningful adjustments to your strategy as you go

Whatever steps you take to diversify your pipeline, keep track of key metrics broken down by gender to ensure you’re meeting your goals. This includes tracking who you reach out to and your response rate to ensure your messaging is resonating with the diverse audience you want to connect with.

If you send messages through LinkedIn Recruiter, you can chart the performance of your InMails by gender. This makes it easy to tell if women aren’t responding as often as men. If that’s the case, you may want to tweak your messaging by experimenting with a different tone or double-checking that the language is truly gender-neutral.

Don’t let your diverse pipeline spring a leak

If women aren’t even getting into your recruiting pipeline, you’re going to struggle to improve the diversity of your workforce. Following these best practices and tips during the early stages of the hiring process, however, can help you build a solid pipeline that keeps women engaged in the process and interested in your jobs.

For more insights into how men and women approach the job hunt differently, download the full Gender Insights Report today.

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