What Women Want – 10 ways to attract and retain female talent in 2021

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I have spent the last four months speaking to a lot of different women with all kinds of professional backgrounds. I wanted to find out what’s important to them, what are their biggest career pain points and what are they looking for out of a potential employer. What is it that attracts them to a company and what makes them run for the hills.


On the contrary, I have spent a lot of time speaking to companies, mainly CEO’s and talent professionals. Trying to figure out what it is they are doing to support and attract women to their business. 90% of them say that diversity is the number one priority on their company agenda, gender diversity being at the core of this. But what are companies actually doing?


There seems to me to be a big disconnect between good intentions of leaders and true progress on closing the gender gap.


Here is a list of ten things companies can do to attract more female talent to their business


  1. Make Job Ad’s more inclusive – From 6 years working in recruitment, I saw so many women being put off from applying for roles because of the use of unattractive language. It was a daily occurrence. Leave out words like ‘rock star’ and ‘aggressive’. Add in words like flexibility, progressive culture, part time. Include information about salary range and the benefits that women most care about.
  2. Tailor your interviews – While research has shown that while men are more likely to exaggerate their accomplishments, women will downplay theirs. With this is mind your interviews should focus on examples and proof of abilities as oppose to pure self promotion.
  3. Good company culture – I have conducted a number of surveys and the most important thing to women when looking at a potential employer is company culture.  What makes a good culture? Authentic values, collaborative environment, ongoing professional development opportunities, clear company mission, inclusion at all levels, diverse leadership, absence of office politics, transparency and leaders who are visible and accessible.
  4. Put women in leadership roles – You can’t be what you can’t see. Entry and mid level women need to see their career paths in a company. If leadership is dominated by men, women are less likely to believe climbing the corporate ladder is worthwhile.
  5. Share stories of women who are succeeding across all levels of your organisation – All candidates, both men and women are very likely to visit your company Linkedin page/ website before applying for a job. When women or any minority group see themselves being represented in previous hires, they will be more likely to apply.
  6. Start internal mentoring and leadership programmes – For companies in which female role models are limited, mentoring schemes or leadership programmes can be a huge confidence boost and can help women to develop their leadership skills. Mentors do not have to be females in senior positions, or the schemes to be just women, the more diverse your mentor pool the better.
  7. Introduce external networking and mentoring – It is so important for businesses to promote networking with peers outside of their organisation. The better connected professionals are to others who can support and mentor them, the better they become themselves. Women need a network of champions, including peers, mentors and coaches that they can learn from. Empower your female coworkers by introducing them to the right networks. Check out our new peer mentorship programme here.
  8. Flexible working environment – There is a big difference between claiming to be a flexible employer and actually being one. Flexibility goes beyond working 9-5, it requires allowing employees to adjust their schedules due to other priorities such as sick kids, parents etc whatever important comes up for them. As long as your employees are delivering results, this performance based culture will prove to be hugely beneficial to your organisation.
  9. Introduce generous paternity leave – Reputation – being recognised as a company that promotes gender equality will go a long way when it comes to attracting both male and female talent. And offering a generous paternity leave policy is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your commitment to women and working families. While paternity leave is designed for men, it ultimately benefits working men, women and children.
  10. Engage and educate male allies – Introduce the concept of unconscious bias to your organisation, make training compulsory and teach your staff how to identify it in order to minimise its negative impacts in the workplace.


It goes without saying that none of these initiatives will solve a company’s gender diversity issues overnight. However, combined with open dialogue and commitment to change, initiatives like these will make a dramatic difference. If you are interested in crafting a more deliberate recruitment strategy for your business, get in touch with Susan from Rise Up Women – to see how we can help.

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