As a mother of young twins and MD of a leading recruitment consultancy in this industry I know a thing or two about managing my time. It was with some surprise, therefore, when I recently received an indirect request from a client for a male-only list of candidates.
Apparently, they had concerns over maternity leave and the levels of commitment a woman would be able to offer the company. Needless to say, or at least I hope it’s needless to say, we turned down the opportunity to fill the post.
Sadly, this sort of attitude is one many women still face, along with a perhaps less egregious but far more common presumption of masculinity.
On almost all occasions when a job description is compiled there will be no explicit request for a male candidate. And yet job specifications are often written in male-specific language.
When asked to describe the ideal candidate at the beginning of a new search, we’re often told: “He will have…”, “He will be…”, or “He should come from this specific industry…”. I’ll let you decide if that is a careless use of pronouns, or symptomatic of a thought process that has already dismissed women as a viable option.
In my experience, this presumption often extends to me personally and my position within the business. I have served as a director of Betting Jobs for almost 10 years and have worked in senior roles far longer. And yet I’m often still presumed to be a PA or receptionist when answering calls in a manner that has simply never happened to male colleagues.
To change that requires a quantum shift in the collective thought process around women in the workplace. As a small part of that collective we should all call it out when we see it.
But here’s the good news – and there is good news – because times are changing. We saw a 26% increase in the number of women joining our industry last year. Many were in marketing, creative departments and human resources. But there was also a 17% bounce in tech, which is my own particular area of expertise and 13% in operations. Most significantly, as we look for a catalyst for change, we saw a bigger percentage of women placed in C-Level roles than we did men.
In recent months, we’ve had women appointed as the chief marketing officer of a highly ambitious crypto-focused client, an HR director with a global brand and a chief compliance officer for a business with major expansion plans this year.
They have been joined by a number of regional directors in European markets, senior programme managers, a finance director and a director of casino product. These already successful women are going to shape the future of our industry.
Recruitment quotas are now a legal requirement in some states in the US, meaning people of different groups must be included on shortlists, as well as an agreed percentage of women. There are many in Europe who would like to see them adopted here too, in order to consign “stale, male and pale” to the workforce scrapheap. And yet despite the experiences discussed above, I’m not convinced.
Many of our clients are already utilising the untapped and previously underutilised talent pool of women. Hearteningly, some of those leading the charge for further equality are also among the largest and most prominent names in our industry.
One group, holding several of the market-leading brands in the US and Europe, recently initiated an open submission agreement for qualified women in technical roles. We were encouraged to find exciting new female talent in a particularly male-dominated field, safe in the knowledge that even without the specific engagement of a relevant vacancy, the candidate would be considered for anything relevant that arose.
Allowing new ideas and perspectives to flourish like this gives clients a distinct advantage over their direct competition, whose echo chamber of conformity has the potential to stifle innovation.
So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, I would encourage you to look around your boardroom, or among your decision-makers, and ask yourself what you are missing.
It is not about ticking the political correctness box or being seen to do the right thing. It is about reinvigorating your company culture and welcoming original ideas that may have previously been overlooked or disregarded.
The future of this industry is already being carved out by prominent women, many of whom are helping businesses differentiate their offering. If you can afford to miss out, then good luck. At least it might give you more time to do the school run.