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Recruiting and Retaining Women in Male-Dominated Industries: Actionable Tips and Examples

Dec 29, 2021

by Bryan Christiansen

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics women are still underrepresented in various industries and companies are struggling to include and support women, especially in male-dominated sectors. Yet, many studies show the benefits of increased diversity.

One such study was conducted by The Peterson Institute for International Economics which found that having more women leaders in high levels of corporate management correlated with increased profitability. The analysis over a 20 year period, from 1997 to 2017, suggested that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance. This correlation reflects that organizations that avoid gender discrimination and promote women to leadership positions also benefit from higher profit margins.

Despite that, the 2020 data of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that there were only:

  • 25% of women employed as facility managers
  • 26.6% as computer and information systems managers
  • 21.3% as transportation, storage, and distribution managers 8.4% as construction managers
  • 9.5% as architectural and engineering managers
  • 25.2% of women were in the computer and mathematical occupations

These numbers show us that companies lack strategies to attract and retain women in traditionally male-dominated industries. Smart business owners should encourage diversity in the workplace. In this article, we will tackle those challenges and how to overcome them.

How to attract and recruit women in male-dominated industries

Commitment from top management

Attracting and recruiting women in male-dominated industries needs to have the attention of all top-management stakeholders. If leaders of the organization believe in this vision and express their commitment, others in the company will follow. Leadership should provide clear guidelines for managers on how they should develop, encourage, and support the women on their team.

In addition, they should also measure the progress and hold managers accountable for the results. Heidi Musser, a long-time advocate for gender parity and a leading executive in the technology sector, agrees that organizations should measure the results of any initiatives taken.

Real-life example: Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, the organization behind 30 percent of worldwide dairy exports, has implemented a 50-50 men-women representation at the leadership level.

Make your intentions known

Communicating your intentions to recruit, develop and retain top women’s talent is essential towards achieving your goal. Involve corporate communications to share your initiatives with your staff, partners, customers, and the public.

Never miss an opportunity to showcase your objectives. Use your organization’s website and social media profiles to reflect your commitment. For example, IBM emphasizes its commitment towards gender parity by highlighting its efforts and results on the recruitment page of its website.

You can also partner with organizations like the Association for Women in Science to demonstrate your support for women. With a 50-year history of championing women in science and over 30 chapters, AWIS can offer your employees professional development, recognition, and a sense of community. AWIS Career Center can also help you find and acquire diverse talent.

Real-life example: IKEA has committed to offering “equal pay for work of equal value”. The organization has introduced base-pay policies and conducts annual assessments to analyze and rectify pay inequality.

Model and Develop the Behaviors You Expect

Unfortunately, even today, many organizations and industries unconsciously follow societal norms and stereotypes when it comes to hiring. Require training for all employees regarding unconscious bias, especially recruiters.

Former Medco Health Solutions vice president of organizational development, Audrey Goodman, highlights that “If an organization wants to keep its female talent, the top can’t keep looking like it has always looked.” Women need themselves reflected in leadership.

Real-life example: ENGIE, a Facilities Management, Energy and Regeneration leader, recruited Emma King back in 1995 in a male-dominated industry. Emma King has been working with ENGIE for over 26 years and has been nominated for and won employee awards.

How to retain women in male-dominated industries

Offer career planning

Help employees think through a career development plan to show potential career paths and the skills needed to advance at your company. Offer women opportunities to develop their leadership competencies. Provide examples of women role models who have made it to the top in your organization. This will boost engagement and motivation.

Real-life example: A Canadian telecoms company, Cogeco Communications, provides ongoing training and education to all of its workers. In 2019, women accounted for 44% of board members.

Show your commitment and educate your workforce

Encourage your women employees to take training that could empower them to become leaders in their fields. There is a lot of professional development webinars and specialized training for women, including AWIS’s What’s Next Webinars.

Enforce measures that break down traditional gender bias. For instance, encourage men within your organization to participate in paternity leave.

Real-life example: Tim Allen, CEO of Care.com, highlights that having a supportive workplace for working dads not only furthers gender equity but also has a positive impact on working mothers.

Listen and act

Wants, needs, priorities, and challenges very likely differ widely for each of your employees. Recruiting and retaining women in the most effective way requires you to consider the specifications of each individual and of your organization.

Encourage your managers to communicate with your workforce to understand the struggles women in your firm might be facing. Work to find reasonable accommodations to their challenges. While you may not be able to solve everyone’s challenges, taking a customized approach is vital and shows you care.

Real-life example: Tom Dybro, Senior Talent Development Consultant at Robert W. Baird & Co. highlights an example when his organization decided to relocate a promising early-career woman to join her soon-to-be husband over 1000 miles away, simply to avoid having her walk away.

Conclusion

Before the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, there appeared to be encouraging signs of women entering multiple industries. In January 2020, for the second time in history, women had outnumbered men in the U.S. workforce. Then the pandemic hit the world in full force, and women were disproportionately affected.

One year later, reports highlight that almost 300,000 working women left jobs in January 2021 alone. A report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reveals that most women workers, especially mothers, struggled to balance their work and parenting commitments during the pandemic while working from home.

At the same time, the male workforce was also working from home. This highlights a massive disparity in childcare duties.

As a business leader, encourage your whole workforce to look for signs of gender discrimination in their daily life and eliminate sexism. Additionally, encourage all your staff to report all forms of discriminatory behaviors and take appropriate sanctions when necessary. Keeping women in the workforce requires everyone to tackle gender inequality at its roots.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.