International Recruiters Day: Supporting female leaders

From Ann Swain, Global CEO of APSCO.

As we all celebrate International Recruiters Day, I’d like to focus on a very specific demographic in the profession: female leaders. Women have historically been under-represented in the staffing sector at leadership level, with research from APSCo’s Women in Recruitment Initiative showing that almost a third of recruitment businesses (30%) have less than 5% female representation at board level.

I won’t bore you with reams of data on this topic, but I do feel it’s important to focus on one recent statistic which really stands out: according to our global strategic partner, LinkedIn, almost half (41%) of recruiters today are female.

This percentage suggests that there is a relative balance between males and females in the general recruitment landscape, but does also highlight that there’s still room for improvement. And of, course, this only covers gender, rather than the full range of diversity demographics that should form part of equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) strategies.

However, where we are seeing the greatest disparity of females – and particularly women from other diverse backgrounds – is at leadership level and in the boardroom. As a profession that holds such influence over hiring practices for a range of businesses, we should always strive to better our services and our own talent attraction and retention practices, and right now more needs to be done to support current and future female recruitment leaders.

As someone who works with female leaders in recruitment – both from our members and within APSCo itself – I’ve had the privilege of seeing many go from strength to strength. Yet some barriers remain for a number of women, whether that’s personal mind-blocks, macro-economic influences or corporate hurdles. Indeed, in conversations we’ve had with the staffing companies within our membership, there have been calls for more support and training specifically designed to equip female leaders with the tools – emotional or otherwise – to best navigate these challenges.

That’s why we have launched the Women in Leadership programme – dedicated training that has been developed to specifically address the issues that senior females from a range of backgrounds in the profession face. While the programme will give delegates access to in-person and virtual workshops, the support network that they are able to build will help ensure they can hone their skills continuously and utilise their contacts to keep breaking barriers as true leaders.

Having already run the programme as a pilot for 50 leaders last year, the feedback and results have proven so valuable that we also agreed to put a number of APSCo’s female leaders through the training as well. What has really stood out in many of the conversations that have emerged as part of the training is the general sentiment that others in the profession have experienced the same challenges and barriers, whether that’s a level of self-doubt, a disconnect with cultures or a fear of speaking up.

While we’ve acted as the platform to drive this conversation, we will continue to do more for the profession. So, as we all applaud the progress the sector has made in so many areas in what has been an unexpected and challenging few years, I would call on everyone in the staffing arena to think about what they can do between now and the 2024 International Recruiters Day to make this sector even better. For me, it will very much be supporting more female recruitment leaders to excel in everything they do.