Attracting women to your company takes more than a flexible working policy

Women blog
Posted: Jul 2020

As findings from our recent Salary Guide show, when it comes to attracting more senior level women to your company, it’s not only the salary and bonuses that matter. Although compensation sits at the top of the list – a generous package is an attractive prospect to female employees – there are a number of other equally important things that must not be overlooked.

According to the respondents of our annual salary survey, the top five things that will draw senior level women to a company are:

  1. Salary and bonus – as the initiatives to have gender parity rise, women are becoming more informed about salary to get pay equity as well. They’re doing their research.
  2. Company culture – women are looking for a company that demonstrates a positive, transparent and encouraging culture that understands their needs
  3. Flexible working options – it’s no surprise to see this one on the list; women want to work for a company that can accommodate their lifestyle
  4. Career progression / good promotion prospects – women want to work for a company that fosters talent in a team, building up the skills and experience they need for promotions
  5. Calibre of team – as women look to break through glass ceilings moving into board positions, leading teams and asserting their presence in the workplace, the value they place on the team around them cannot be ignored

The need for more senior level women is real

In recent decades, we’ve seen female talent enter the workforce in increasing numbers. Yet in most countries in the world women remain underrepresented at every level in the corporate pipeline, with the gap becoming more pronounced at each level of seniority. It’s shocking that the rate of progress has been so slow.

There’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that companies with women on the board make more money, and research has even shown that SMEs owned by women are less likely to go insolvent than those owned by men.

But, despite the clear benefits of equality at the highest levels of business, there’s still a disparity between men and women when it comes to senior roles.

What can you do as an employer to address the issue and attract more female talent?

The findings from our survey are a helpful checklist for leaders to start thinking about more ways to foster equality in the workplace, particularly when it comes to high-level roles. When the industry is losing female talent at the rate it is (only a third of the comms industry are women at a senior level), surely it’s time to start looking after the women better.

Implement equal pay for male and female employees

If your female employees are among the most skilled and high-performing at your company, you have to pay them the same rate as your male employees to keep them from bolting to another company or leaving the industry. When women take maternity leave, they quickly fall behind their male counterparts – it’s an employer’s responsibility to make sure they keep up.

Your female employees want to feel good about coming to work at a company that they believe values their talents and skills. By paying them the equal of what you pay your male employees for the same work, you are communicating a powerful message about gender equality. More importantly, you are directly impacting the professional and personal lives of your female employees because of the high value you place on their worth.

Showcase your diverse workplace and culture

Be sure to celebrate the achievements of a diverse selection of staff in your social media content and careers page. This will show any women who are currently considering applying for a position that your company is an inclusive place to work.

Hopefully, you will already have senior women in leading roles. To retain your less experienced female team, they will need to see role models, people to look up to and be inspired by. If they are not there, do not be fooled – they will leave to find one.

Offer flexible working

There’s a huge demand among professional women for more flexible working options, as our survey results showed – a staggering 99% of female respondents consider working flexibly to be very important. It is clearly one of the most effective ways to help attract women into top positions as this allows them to balance work and family life more effectively.

Many employers are starting to wake up to the fact that an employee’s value to the company should be based around performance, not just how many hours they spend at a desk. Working from home throughout the current pandemic has further highlighted how it is possible to continue to run a business with teams working remotely. (We talk in more detail about how flexible working will become a requirement rather than a nice benefit to have in our blog post here.)

Nurture a work culture where women (and not just men) believe in their potential

A sure-fire way to attract and retain talented women is to offer gender-equal opportunities for success. The only fair approach to promotions is the objective approach. Take gender out of the equation. Take ethnicity out of the equation. Take hair and clothing and outside interests and ‘best fit’ and all the other irrelevant qualities and attributes out of the equation. Promote the person who will do the best job.

The onus is on organisations, not just women, to take responsibility for taking down the barriers to progress. Women quite often underestimate their ability, so they don’t fulfil their ambitions. It’s important having mentoring and good female leadership programmes to constantly tell these people that they are really good, they are really valued, and they’ve got a great skill set that will take them far in the organisation.

Build teams that are inspiring and fun, and bring friendship to the workplace

Making a difference, growing personally and professionally, and being worthwhile to the company they work for are important considerations for women, and much of this is impacted by the kind of team they work with.

Women in senior roles have the potential to enjoy great success with team members because they are socialised to have the soft skills to know when to push their people, when to give them space, and when they need a pick-me-up. Women are communicators, which makes it easier for them to develop trust with colleagues and get them to open up about what’s going on in the company or their lives.

Women will be looking for a team where they will be able to implement their strong communication skills, a team that will be able to talk with each other, a team with whom they can empathise – and understand on a deeper level.

To sum up

In this female-dominated industry, the attrition of women as they rise to the top is substantial. Perhaps it’s time for employers to ‘proactively’ address the issue, audit their boards, their salaries, map out the career paths for each team member, look to have industry leading flexible working policies, address their diversity and make themselves seriously exciting places to work. This is how we start to retain and progress the industry’s exceptionally talented women.

The Works Search a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email 

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