Inspiring inclusion in recruitment and the workplace: The Women of Wave weigh in

by in Industry and Markets

What does it mean to be inclusive? It’s a question recently prompted by the upcoming International Women’s Day, held this year on 8th March, the theme for which is ‘Inspiring Inclusion’. As a theme that should be integral to the recruitment process and to company culture, it felt important to dig into what inclusion really means and what it should look like in practice. As part of this, we asked our female Wavers what they thought recruiters and organisations should be doing to inspire inclusion in both the recruitment process and the workplace.

Offer flexible working

How can organisations inspire inclusion in both the recruitment process and the workplace? One word: flexibility. And I don’t just mean for women. Flexible working options – and a culture that truly supports flexibility – for both men and women is the only way that the juggle can be shared equally. 

Shifting gender norms so that men and women share the work at home as well as in their paid jobs can only happen if both have flexibility in where, when and/or how they work. Inspiring inclusivity in the workplace means ensuring flexible working is normalised for all.

Emily Buckley, Head of Content

Flexible working, whether it’s location-based or time-based, is an incredibly valuable tool to improving workplace equality and creating inclusive workplaces. It can literally mean the difference between someone being able to work and not and can hugely increase mental wellbeing. However, flexible working is often referred to as a benefit for women and that narrative needs to change as it perpetuates the idea that women should bear the brunt of the work outside of the workplace.

If women are the only ones working flexibly, they will be the ones taking on the majority of caring responsibilities and domestic chores. They will be the ones who’s careers will be impacted because they’re essentially doing two jobs. Flexibility is vital when it comes to inspiring inclusion as it allows those that would be unable to work otherwise to join the workforce but it must be open to and normalised for all genders.

Foster an inclusive culture from the top down

Making employees feel valued also makes them feel empowered to do and be their best. As most organizations operate from a top-down approach, a leadership team not only promoting a culture of respect and inclusion, but providing open access to career development opportunities and cross-gender mentorship programs would help to nurture talent and mitigate biases.

Jamie Fine, Senior Business Development Manager

An inclusive recruitment process and seemingly inclusive policies are incredibly important but will ultimately mean little if the company culture isn’t inclusive. Inclusivity needs to be felt and actioned in all areas and that needs to come from the top down. Coaching platform BetterUp conducted research that supports this, finding that when managers are perceived as inclusive leaders, employees report 3.4 times higher job satisfaction, engagement, and a commitment to the organisation that’s 2.7 times greater.

Initiating mentoring programmes is a great way to foster inclusivity, helping to both provide career progression support and as a way to build respect. Ensuring learning and development is available to all, from entry level roles all the way to leadership positions, is also vital. The word ‘empowered’ is a fitting word to describe how easy and ready access to support can enable a person to fulfil their full potential, which benefits not only the individual but the entire organisation.

Establish and implement clear DE&I policies

I would say that companies or organisations should consider establishing policies that support diversity and empowering all genders. For example, implementing clear policies that would avoid discrimination and harassment. Policies that ensure everyone feels comfortable and safe in expressing themselves genuinely are hugely important, as are those that encourage the reporting of incidents, with appropriate action taken to address them regardless of gender.

Janelle Baguioro, Web Designer

An organisation that has clear policies designed to support diversity, equity and inclusion and eliminate discrimination reflects positively on the entire company and helps to build a culture of inclusivity. Not only will that help to encourage all genders to apply for jobs at that company, it will ensure that employees feel supported at work. Ensure those policies are actioned upon and are not just pieces of paper in a filing cabinet in HR or statements on your website. That means calling out discriminatory behaviour when you see it and encouraging all employees to do the same.

Be compassionate and ensure that filters through the company

Having a compassionate employer makes all the difference! Understanding the diverse challenges life throws at us creates workplaces that value empathy and support each employee’s journey.

Zoe Griffiths, PA to CEO

Being inclusive necessarily involves compassion, an understanding that everyone’s lives are different and a willingness to work with, embrace and support those differences. A compassionate mindset is key to embedding inclusivity into company culture as, without an understanding of the needs of others, how can we ever be truly inclusive? This is essential in those in leadership positions but in order to create an inclusive culture, one in which women can thrive and are supported to succeed, everyone must be compassionate. So important is it to us here at Wave that it is one of the three core values that guides everything we do.

Understanding the importance of inclusivity in recruitment and the workplace

I think recruiting a balanced team of men and women can bring new and different perspectives and views to businesses, helping them to evolve. Having a team of mixed genders with a variety of skills and knowledge from different lifestyles can result in a stronger group with more diverse communication skills and provide a better customer experience.

Kamila Fitchett, Data Analyst

Inclusive recruitment processes build diverse teams. Without measures in place to ensure inclusivity through the process, you won’t be helping your clients to forge diversity in their organisations. It all starts with the job ad – the language used must be gender-neutral, flexible working options should be made clear, and required skills and experiences should be kept to the essentials (studies that have found that men feel confident enough to apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria, yet women need to believe that they can tick at least 80% of the boxes before they will apply for a job).

You may want to consider anonymising CVs  to avoid unconscious bias and the interview panel should include women. Inclusivity must also be embedded in the workplace in order to support and retain female employees. Diverse teams lead to diverse thoughts, resulting in innovative ideas and, ultimately, successful businesses. Fostering inclusivity benefits everyone, from the recruiter, to the employee, to the team, to the organisation, to the economy as a whole.

And 1 final thought… Ensure women are always part of the hiring team

Many find it hard to be what they can’t see. If there is no female representation during the recruitment process, that could severely impact a woman’s decision to accept a job offer. Equally, if you have an all-male interview panel, how do you know the collective unconscious bias won’t impact recruiting decisions? Inclusivity has to start during the recruitment process.

Unconscious bias can mean that recruitment panels that lack female presence are less likely to hire women. Not only this but it can deter women from continuing with the process or accepting an offer. An all-male interview panel might be viewed as reflective of the company and is the very opposite of inspiring inclusion. This is true at all levels and is possibly even more important the higher up you go.

Ensuring women are represented at board level will in turn help to ensure that women are promoted to leadership positions but will also help to inspire women to progress to and apply for leadership roles. Research by Hypatia Capital, an asset management investing in women in leadership, has found that the senior leadership teams in companies with female CEOs are comprised of 80% more women than than those with male CEOs – 35% versus 20%. This would strongly suggest that more female CEOs would therefore mean an increase in women smashing that glass ceiling.

Without inclusivity we can never achieve gender equality but forging more inclusive recruitment processes and workplaces necessitates a collective effort. That includes implementing inclusive practices, providing support and mentorship to help women develop, grow and succeed, and calling out discriminatory behaviour when we see it. According to UN Women’s most recent report, at the current rate of progress, it will take 286 years for the world to achieve gender equality but it starts with inclusivity. And we can all help to ensure the world of work is inclusive.