‘Attractive employers don’t leave diversity to chance’

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Do male and female students seek the same employers?

Our research with students shows some employers and sectors attract one gender more than the other, but attributes such as innovation and international opportunities are important for both genders. There are also regional differences.

What are the main differences?

Female students more often choose companies in the fast-moving consumer goods sector. What is even more interesting is that female engineers, although not strongly attracted to the FMCG industry itself, still choose companies in the sector as their ideal employers as they find them to be inclusive and diverse.

In our latest European ranking, based on the preferences of more than 85,000 career seekers, L’Oréal was ranked top by female business students and at 27 by males. Female engineering students ranked Nestlé second while male engineers rated it 28th. Investment banking, on the other hand, attracts many more males: Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan were ranked six and seven by male business students and 21 and 19 respectively by females.

What does each gender value?

Women are looking for employers that support gender equality, have flexible working conditions and high ethical standards. Men focus on companies offering high levels of responsibility, leadership opportunities and only recruit the best talent. When we ask the students how they perceive banks the gender gap is obvious: females choose words such as competitive and aggressive, while males tend to associate banks with prestige and money. We also see a big gap in salary expectations, with female students almost always predicting a lower starting salary.

Why are there differences?

There are several reasons. A company such as L’Oréal, for example, invests in products and marketing targeted at women and is perceived as having a diverse and inclusive workforce. The company also has several women in top management position and retains them – and it takes this message to campuses. On the other hand, investment banks are associated with traditionally male characteristics: long hours and testosterone. The students pick employers that are well-known to them and make products they like. They want to work in companies where they would be welcomed and that are recommended by their friends.

Is advancement an attraction?

Men do more often get “hot jobs” than women – these are jobs with the most impact and might include large and visible projects, mission-critical roles and international assignments. Women are more often nominated for mentoring programmes and spend more time in development programmes without seeing an impact on their careers.

Women need experience in hot jobs because most career development happens on the job. There is also a gap in global experience. Even among the women and men most willing to relocate, more men were given international assignments and more women were never asked. In the long run this provides fewer top management positions and lower salaries for women.

Should differences be overcome? And if so, how?

Differentiation is a big concern for employers because organisations need a diverse workforce to be innovative and dynamic. Many technology companies, for example, have problems attracting women and are working hard on this – although Google, the world’s most attractive employer in our ranking, is a good example of a company that has been good at attracting a diverse range. In driving change, smart companies allocate hot jobs in deliberate and strategic ways to advance women. They do not leave it to chance.

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