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21 days ago by Emma Love

It's just a bit of banter. Just ignore it and be better than the guys

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Ask a room of recruiters if there’s a talent drain of women in the industry and they might shake their heads in absolute disbelief. You’ll probably hear someone pipe up “but there are so many women in recruitment”.

There are. But it would seem that they’re not necessarily hanging around.

The gist of it goes like this: women enter the recruitment agency world, see some success and may get to senior management (high five!) but then jump ship before they bag a board level position (ooft).

So what’s going on? I went to an event a few months ago where this was discussed. The general thinking was that a lot of women simply don’t take their agency career seriously as a long term career option. Or can’t see a way of making it work when they have family commitments; making alternative career plans well in advance. Maybe they go in-house, perhaps they set up on their own or maybe leave recruitment completely.

Pretty much every recruitment agency boss will lament how difficult it is to hire ‘good consultants’. So this all seems a bit careless, doesn’t it? To lose some of our most deeply networked, experienced and valuable individuals. Particularly in an industry that already suffers high attrition rates. 

But they’re right there, you silly sausage! They are right there in front of you. 

Ah, no. Sorry. Not anymore. They’ve gone I’m afraid. Put off by inflexible working practices, silly KPIs and a lack of real benefits.

The recruitment agencies who are getting it right play by grown up rules: they enable people to manage their own time; provide the right technology so their employees can work flexibly if they need; they empower a focus on results, not spray and pray KPIs; provide proper benefits and parental leave policies that are clear and fair; they pay and promote on Moneyball merit not on loudest voice. They look outwards, constantly, to their clients and job seekers with respect and the absolute understanding that jobs transform lives.

These are the recruitment businesses that will retain women as they reach their 30s and beyond. It’s these businesses that will welcome mums back after maternity leave, are supportive of working fathers too, and won’t roll their eyes about the F word or the C word (flexibility, childcare). It’s these businesses that will ultimately retain and attract really good people. And it’s these businesses that will, in turn – and this is absolutely crucial - present more balanced shortlists to their clients.

Leaders in these businesses do not behave appallingly: they don’t give pornography to their employees at Christmas; they don’t bully or sexually harass their staff; they don’t think air honking boobs is a good way of saying hello; they don’t hire female employees based on how presentable they are; they don’t constantly ask ‘so when are you planning on having a family’; they don’t rely on getting everyone smashed as their main incentive.

And unlike the views of one influential industry figure, they don’t suggest that “It’s just a bit of banter. Just ignore it and be better than the guys”.