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Driving diversity in recruitment

Ginnette Harvey, US board member of SThree PLC and vice president of the company’s Real Staffing brand, discusses how recruitment specialists can drive diversity and inclusion in business.


As a leader, a minority, a woman and a mother, diversity and inclusion are close to my heart. So, it’s comforting to see many companies making changes and accepting that diversity is good for business. There is enough data to show that companies with diverse leadership teams and boards perform better financially, which has led to diversity and inclusion ranking high on the agenda for most organisations. This improved performance is broadly linked to better variety of thought, creativity, innovation and a more constructive environment where the status quo can be challenged.


Attracting and retaining key staff are also invariably linked to performance and, in short, the more diverse and inclusive an organisation is, the higher the likelihood is that people will want to stick around. The issue many businesses now face, however, is that they don’t yet know how to find and nurture the talent needed to drive such a culture change. That is where the recruitment industry has a unique opportunity to lead the way around best practice.


Challenging the status quo


There are so many challenges when it comes to levelling the playing field for women, minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. One major hurdle is that some employers are still subtly, and in some cases openly, indicating a strong preference for candidates who went to ‘Ivy League’ schools. These schools cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to attend and in the US, just five per cent of students at those schools are African American. So, whether intentional or not, simple candidate screening decisions can greatly reduce the odds of hiring a diverse workforce.


Another of the most obvious issues is that there is a shortage of females in many industries, including the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors that SThree operates in. But we can make a difference within recruitment by providing greater access to a range of roles, particularly within STEM leadership, to females, minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 


The role of a recruiter goes far beyond simply passing along a resume, so bridging the ‘confidence gap’ with techniques like career coaching can have an amazing impact on improving the talent pipeline. Ultimately, the way to combat a talent shortage is to play the long game and seek to improve the issue at the source.


By proactively targeting and encouraging females and minority groups to take the leap into leadership roles, and by continuing to educate our clients on a fair and meritocratic interview and selection process, we can drive positive change.


Confidence is key


Being in the minority within a leadership team because of gender, ethnicity or any other differentiating factor can be quite an isolating experience and it takes a good deal of confidence to be a lone and different voice in the room. This challenge feels very familiar to me and it can feel extremely isolating. But sitting on the US board of SThree, it has been heartening to look at the evolution within the industry and specifically within my own organisation. 


SThree increasingly finds our customers leaning on us to attract top talent and enable them to move their diversity agenda forward. It is therefore important for us as an organisation and more broadly within the industry, to have a diverse and inclusive culture internally if we are to help others build for the future. It’s clear that SThree cares deeply about diversity and inclusivity and there have been many positive initiatives put in place over the last five years that demonstrate this.


These include schemes like iDENTIFY, which is a program designed to sponsor high-potential females in leadership, right through to a number of family-friendly policies that help to make the delicate work-life balance all the more possible.


Building the future


The benefits of having a diverse workforce are now on the table and it seems that organisations and people truly want to engage in a meaningful way. The conversation has moved away from being a problem for women and minority groups to solve themselves and is now being addressed in a far more constructive and holistic way. That said, I still see many organisations failing to understand the root cause and I think meaningful and sustainable change requires a deeper understanding. That is something that every one of us has a responsibility to try to grasp.

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