Business investment consultant at SSG, Abigail Britnell, charts the rise of female networking.

Linking for Change

In 2019, there are over 100 different, all-female networks in the UK alone, and more are being created at a growing rate. We’re seeing a trend taking place which has been on the cards for a long time and there’s clearly a demand. It’s not money that’s driving growth, it’s women, who are looking to empower and encourage other women, to make the move into owning their own business or giving them the skills to take a sledgehammer to the glass ceiling. 

Women are attending business breakfast meetings, lunches and seminars in increasingly higher numbers as they become more accessible and popular, As new networks open up and others continue to grow women are finding a space where they feel they can ask for support and help and also contribute to this type of community. Some of the key female players in the recruitment industry are now attending these types of events and sharing their personal journeys on the road to success, shining a light on what it means to be a woman in recruitment. We’re now keeping the door open for each other on the way up, rather than closing it behind us, and this is a crucial a game-changer when it comes to women achieving the success they want in their working environment. 

Better technology has been crucial in the rise of flexible working, making a significant difference to women with families when it comes to following their career ambitions. It’s delivered a higher degree of flexibility and balance when it comes to managing a busy career and home life. This level of flexibility means more women than ever have the ability to attend expos, seminars, events and even awards ceremonies which celebrate and promote women in industry. 

The importance of female networking

Industry bodies, like APSCo recognise the need for more Women in Recruitment and greater diversity within the workforce, to the extent they offer initiatives tailored entirely towards women in business, which are supported by the REC. These informal, peer-to-peer interactions are crucial when it comes to building trust and ensuring the networks continue to grow and develop. A sense of collaboration, combined with mentoring programs are ensuring these networks create and deliver an invaluable resource to women in recruitment. 

Encouraging and supporting networks for specific demographic groups has a direct link with employee retention, and have also been shown to increase loyalty to an employer. With an ageing population, these networks could also help to close the gap on the looming skills shortage and enable women to become much bigger contributors to the recruitment industry. Tapping into the full potential of women in the workplace could be worth as much as £23 billion to the UK economy as a whole. 

Both local and national female networks allow women to support each other and utilise each other’s strengths when it comes to being in business or having a career.

It’s not just the support of buying each other’s products and services, it’s about ensuring success and making sure other women are able to reach their full potential within the workforce. Women have been underutilised in business for a very long time, but the skills they bring to a role like recruitment are undeniable and it’s fantastic to see these types of positive steps being taken and making real changes in the lives of working women. 

Women led recruitment agencies

We’re starting to see a rise in the number of female entrepreneurs starting their own business within the recruitment industry. The key motivational drivers I come across on a daily basis are financial freedom, work/life balance, and being able to work the hours that suit them. Women are starting to understand the value they have, the skills they bring and what they can actually contribute to the workforce and their chosen professions. 

According to HSBC “58 per cent, female entrepreneurs globally are concerned about bias when raising capital and 51 per cent in the UK. The second biggest concern was the preparation of their business plan (58 per cent) and lack of support (41 per cent).”

Research by Harvard Business Review found that Fortune-500 companies with the highest female representation at senior level outperformed those with the fewest, by a staggering 42 per cent. Another report by Grant Thornton showed that publicly listed companies with male-only boards missed out on £49 billion of investment each year – the equivalent of around three per cent GDP.”

From my own experience of setting up independent recruitment agencies, an average of 37 per cent are female-led, which is slightly higher than the national average when it comes to female entrepreneurs. Making sure women are supported when it comes to areas of business they may not have had to engage in before, is vital to the success they’re looking to achieve.


Diversity in recruitment 

There’s still an enormous need to continue to promote female role models across all general areas of society. Only 29 per cent of UK politicians are female, yet they represent 50.8 per cent of the general population, and when it comes to the board of directors for the top five recruitment companies, only 34 per cent are women, but this still a huge improvement from 15 years ago. Women make up one-third of the UK’s entrepreneurial population, yet statistics show employees who work for a female manager are 6 times more engaged. On average, having women in leadership positions aligned with a 15 per cent increase in profitability.

Diversity is about reducing the number of barriers women face in the workplace and reaching the goal of finally levelling the playing field. The recruitment sector has made great strides when it comes to leaving behind the misogynistic boys’ club mentality which permeated the industry 20-30 years ago, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. These types of female-led networks are proving to be a seriously effective way to communicate, and are, at the same time, having an impressive impact on female confidence. 

When it comes to going for jobs, asking for pay rises, understanding AI and even the psychology of work, women can comfortably turn to female experts for knowledge sharing. Promoting recruitment as a profession, rather than just something people “fall into” within these networks, provides a real opportunity to source outside talent and lead the way when it comes to women in senior positions.

It’s been shown that a high percentage of women only apply to jobs when they’re sure they have 95 per cent of the skills needed to be effective in a role. Overcoming imposter syndrome, and learning techniques to fully appreciate the talents they already have, are slowly encouraging more women to aim higher. As well as internally within the Industry, we need to continue to focus on Diversity when it comes to our candidates so we don’t miss out on the top talent as it becomes harder to find. It’s been called the war for talent, but with more women having the confidence to try for different roles, this is the perfect opportunity to cover some of the jobs which have traditionally been more male dominated or just harder to fill.

 Social media platforms have contributed to more women running their own businesses and sharing their successes with other women. Gone are the days of keeping quiet about our achievements and our careers, now women can celebrate them with the outside world, and drive the changes needed from within the industry itself. 

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