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Four Tips for Hiring Women in Male-Dominated Industries

Despite immense progress in women’s representation in the labor force, there are still disparities in many high-growth, lucrative industries. Hiring women is only one of many important steps in achieving organizational gender equity, but it’s a critical one. On the path to achieve equity, it is important that hiring managers are informed and intentional with their strategies for hiring women. Here are four science-backed strategies for hiring women in male-dominated industries:

1. Design the Job Ad to be Inclusive

Research suggests that job advertisements communicate socially relevant information to an applicant pool. Using gendered wording within these ads may reinforce gender disparities in male-dominated industries. Job ads with stereotypically masculine words (“determined”, “superior”) appeal less to women and induce a lower sense of anticipated belongingness towards the advertised job. To avoid this, hiring managers should closely examine the phrasing of job recruitment materials to identify instances of unnecessarily gendered wording.   

The qualification list matters too. When applicants do not meet all the listed qualifications in a job ad, men are more likely than women to still apply. Women’s leadership expert Tara Mohr asked a sample of women why. In their responses, women primarily said that they have a low chance of being hired. This indicates that companies should explicitly communicate how much each written qualification for a job is desired versus required to boost the odds of women applying. 

2. Target Recruitment to Best Reach Qualified Women

Targeted recruitment practices (i.e., practices to recruit members of an underrepresented group) have been shown to partially predict increased diversity. Research shows that at the management level these practices are linked to a greater representation of white women, black women, and black men in management. In higher education, targeted recruiting was also found to significantly address the information disadvantage regarding faculty job openings that women scholars face relative to men. This research found that when job advertisements were placed in venues to specifically target women, more women applied for the openings and more women advanced in the hiring process. 

Beyond general recruiting strategies, hiring teams in male-dominated industries may benefit from expanding their recruitment efforts to best connect with a diverse pool of qualified women. Scholars from the Anita Borg Institute recommend that companies build ties with conferences, colleges, and universities or organizations where women are currently well-represented. For example, hiring teams from technology-related industries can tap into networks at women-led or women-focused tech conferences. 

3. Be Mindful of Your Recruitment Environment

Social psychological research has documented a phenomenon called “ambient belonging” — cues in our environment can signal what types of people belong in that environment. For example, virtual classrooms with stereotypically masculinized interior designs trigger a lower sense of belongingness among women studying computer science. Hiring personnel should examine their physical (or virtual) environments to identify what elements may be reinforcing or challenging the stereotypes of people in their given industry. 

4. Strategically Design Your Interview Process

Consider how factors embedded in your interview process may increase gender biases, and in turn, decrease the likelihood of hiring women. Research indicates that using structured interviews, having gender-balanced hiring teams, and holding parties socially accountable for fair decision-making may boost your ability to equitably hire women. Nowadays, creative technological solutions—including the AI-powered models developed by Cangrade to remove gender biases from the hiring process—can also help organizations boost gender parity in the candidate selection process.  

Hiring is a critical part of gender equity. But the above strategies should be part of a larger investment towards organizational gender parity that includes efforts to retain and advance currently employed women. And, because disparities facing women are far more complex for some women (e.g., non-white women or women from lower socio-economic backgrounds), to create an even more equitable environment organizations should implement talent acquisition practices for hiring women alongside other equity-promoting practices