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Throw out the man-sized T-shirts embroidered with the company’s logo, and the loud power-point presentations. If your organisation wants to recruit, retain and promote women, then bring in flexible working, networking groups and childcare facilities instead.
“A lot of culture changes start by being thoughtful,” says Elizabeth Ames, senior vice-president of marketing, alliances and programmes at the Anita Borg Institute, a social enterprise that was founded on the premise that women are vital to building the technology the world needs.
She adds: “There are some obvious things, like realising that paintball wars for off-site [events] might not be such a great idea, or that references to pornography in the office need to stop.”
But culture change in business also requires formal processes. Firstly, Ms Ames recommends that the systems of hiring and promotion be made as transparent as possible.
Women also need to apply for more promotions. “I don’t recommend promoting someone who is not qualified, but there should be targets and an effort on the part of the company to identify talent that can be developed,” she says.
And when it comes to recruiting, Ms Ames recommends “blind resume surveys” that do not show the name or reveal the gender of an applicant. This, she says, helps organisations to create a more diverse group of employees.
She adds that recruitment agencies should be pushed by companies to produce more female candidates.
One of the most successful ways to recruit women from university campuses is to bring along senior female employees to inspire them to come forward. At undergraduate level, for example, Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, last year hosted 40 diversity recruiting events, 29 of which were specifically targeted to women. “We find it is very beneficial to bring female role models to campus to talk to female students,” says Sarah Harper, Goldman Sach’s head of recruitment for Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Another tactic is to target girls before they get to university. Goldman encourages women as young as 17 and 18 to consider professional opportunities in the industry through one-day programmes aimed at A-level and International Baccalaureate students. These give attendees an insight into the world of financial services.
Energy company BP has also broadened its recruitment schemes in the past decade to attract more women, by approaching them at younger ages in an effort to encourage their interest in the industry. The company hosts BP discovery days for students in their first and second years of university, to experience working life at the company, as well as offering internships.
BP also awards university scholarships to help with funding the education of talented students. The programme is made up of an equal number of female and male students.
“We are working to develop a relationship with talented individuals who are [working] in specific disciplines such as chemical or mechanical engineering,” says Victoria Bourne, BP’s global head of downstream resourcing. “We don’t just show up [on] campuses and start interviewing. We have engaged with the recruits at different points in their education.”
BP says that in 2015, 46 per cent of graduate recruits were women, up from 33 per cent in 2013.
Networking and developing women’s careers once they are working has also been a priority for both Goldman and BP. There are 11 women’s networks at Goldman that host networking events and provide mentoring opportunities.
Last year in London, and for the first time, the company held two recruiting events focused on women in technology.
Ms Harper says that one of the main priorities for retention is a strong focus on flexibility.
This appears to be working. In 2015, Goldman reported that women represented 27.5 per cent of its promotions to managing director, up from the rate of 16 per cent two years ago. The bank’s children’s nursery at its London offices gives each employee a free “back-up” allocation of up to 20 days per child a year.
BP has also developed a strong approach to “agile working”, varied working hours and locations, working from home and job shares. There has been a strong emphasis on ensuring panels for promotions have a diverse representation of men and women to make decisions.
BP has publicly set a target that by 2020 women will represent a quarter of group leaders. When this target was set in 2011, 15 per cent of group leaders were women. By 2014 this had risen to 18 per cent.
“There is no one, secret answer,” says BP’s Ms Bourne. “We are trying to build an inclusive culture, which is underpinned by strong values and behaviours, and which facilitate the recruitment and development of talent.”