Published by ClearlyRated - 06/27/23

Best Staffing Firms for Women Webinar Recap: Strategies to Attract and Retain Top-Performers

Recently, we had the pleasure of announcing our inaugural list of Best Staffing Firms for Women. This designation recognizes firms that deliberately foster work environments in which women can thrive and are more likely to receive parity in career growth and compensation. 

Why Are We Shining a Light on Women in Staffing? 

As our CEO, Eric Gregg, shared in a recent webinar, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Strategies from the Best Staffing Firms for Women,” women represent 68% of the staffing workforce, yet are: 

  • 62% less likely than men to feel they’re compensated fairly
  • 26% less likely to feel they “always belong” at their firm
  • 42% less likely to to believe that their firm operates a meritocracy

And their perceptions are not wrong. The fact is: Women in staffing are underrepresented in higher-level roles and compensated at lower rates than men at every level. When we look at the numbers, we see that women in staffing are below the “equity line” in both director-level (-13.5%) and executive-level roles (-35%). On the flip side, women are overrepresented in support roles. 

This imbalance doesn’t stop at representation. Overall, women in staffing earn $0.77 for every dollar their male counterparts are paid. In fact, there isn’t a single staffing role in which women match their male peers in compensation. In many cases the higher women rise, the less money they make in comparison. Female branch managers, for instance, make $0.82 for every $1.00 their male peers get paid. And while women have gained ground since the 1970s in terms of compensation, the additional loads they bore during the pandemic led to a severe setback in their collective compensation as compared to men’s. 

Despite being undervalued, women offer many benefits to their employers—especially when in leadership roles. An article published by the American Psychological Association notes, “Decades of studies show women leaders help increase productivity, enhance collaboration, inspire organizational dedication, and improve fairness.” So, how can you attract more women to your organization and better support your female employees to prepare them for leadership roles? Eric explored this with Tammi Heaton, the co-CEO of Pridestaff, and Kim Whiteley, SVP of MeeDerby. Tammi and Kim have spent 26 years and 16 years at their companies, respectively, and each of their organizations made the list of Best Staffing Firms for Women.

Ways to Support Women in Staffing From Best Staffing Firms for Women Winners 

During the webinar, Eric, Tammi, and Kim explored the ‘whys’ behind women’s leadership gap as well as what their own organizations do to actively support and promote women in their workforces. Below are some actionable takeaways. 

1. Give women opportunities to expand their capabilities and experience—and encourage them to broaden their perceptions around their own potential.

Tammi suggests offering women opportunities to grow by exposing them to things they wouldn’t normally do via sub-committees or customer advisory boards. Not only will they gain experience, but they’ll also build their network. She noted that this practice spurred her own career beginning in 2002 when she shared an idea with leaders and was empowered to put a plan together and run with it. 

“Half of what we know isn’t taught in school,” Tammi says, so it’s essential to create a work atmosphere where women feel empowered to grow. Supporting their ideas and encouraging them to pursue their plans can retain women over time and improve their readiness for leadership roles. 

Progress can be made by nudging women toward leadership roles. Tammi and Kim both acknowledged that everyone is always slightly underqualified for their next job. But women, they noted, tend to feel this more acutely than men. We noticed this at ClearlyRated too. Often, women candidates were disqualifying themselves before they’d even applied for our open roles. To remedy that, we’ve added language to our job descriptions explaining that we consider applicants who don’t meet all the criteria. 

2. Promote mentorship and leadership development.

“Ask women about their challenges and how they perceive their skills and potential, especially because women have a tendency to be harder on themselves,” says Tammi, who encourages active career pathing conversations. She also recommends connecting female employees with women mentors who are already in leadership positions. 

Connecting women with formal mentor relationships and leadership programs can help talented women who wouldn’t normally advocate for themselves. Kim noted that several MeeDerby clients earned a spot on the Best Staffing Firms for Women list. One such firm is Adecco which recruits female employees into Engage 2022, its formal leadership development program for women. Adecco’s CEO has committed to fill 50% of its VP-level roles with women leaders by 2030.

3. Foster flexibility.

Kim pointed out that the years in which most people advance their careers often coincide with typical childbearing years. Many women get passed over because they’re pregnant, on leave or caring for young children. This issue has been exacerbated as an increasing number of women also begin to care for their parents along with their children.

“These women get overlooked rather than included in conversations,” she says, yet they’re still more than capable of taking on challenges and excelling. “Ask them what they can handle and manage. When we do, we learn that they can manage a lot more than we think as long as we give them the opportunity to do it—and the flexibility to do it in a way that works for them.”

After she had her son, Kim left a former job herself. She had also been managing care for her parents and wanted to work at an organization that allowed her to be performance-driven while also having more control over her schedule. Fortunately, she landed at MeeDerby where employees are given the flexibility to handle personal responsibilities with a schedule that works for them while still gaining opportunities to rise in the organization.

“We just ask that if you’re going to be away from your desk, you give a heads up to your team so people will know not to expect an immediate response. You don’t even need to explain why,” she says.

She and Tammi both recommend thinking outside the box about how a job can get done. Tammi shared that PrideStaff supports women returning to work by allowing them to ease back in, sometimes with a three-day schedule. Some women who returned to work via this option, she says, are now top performers. 

“Empathy doesn’t mean there’s a lack of accountability,” Tammi says.

When an employee needs extra flexibility due to outside circumstances, she recommends that managers offer support and several options while setting expectations and timelines to prevent surprises on either side. 

4. Actively recruit women who’ve felt sidelined or left behind at past roles. 

YUPRO is another of MeeDerby’s clients that qualified for a spot on the Best Staffing Firms for Women list. Its CEO Michelle Sims encourages employees to refer to anyone who felt they didn’t have a voice at another organization. Her current head of recruiting came into the company this way.

Tammi echoed the importance of reaching out to people who’ve felt sidelined, adding that PrideStaff’s first franchise owners were women who felt left out in their organizations. Now she affirms that they are PrideStaff’s strongest performing branches. 

To hear more details from their discussion as well as Tammi and Kim’s answers to the following attendee questions, watch the full webinar

  1. “What advice do you have for male-dominated organizations that have so far failed to consider women for leadership roles?” 
  2. “As we look forward to the next five years, do you see it getting better in the industry? Is there any real change happening?”
  3. “What are some things you can do in your recruiting process to hire the next generation of female leaders?” 
  4. “Are there programs you’d recommend women participate in within the industry to further their career and grow their network?”

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