Recruiting, Hiring, Training and Retaining BRAVE Women

Recruiting, hiring, training and retaining the women you want on your team – the courageous, competent women; lets call them BRAVE Bridge Building Leaders – is not rocket science, but it will take adjustments to some widely held mindsets and practices. While every organization is unique, access to proven wise practices are helpful in prioritizing limited resources:

  1. Culture matters. Research demonstrates that women consider more factors when considering career options. Purposeful work, opportunity to be part of an ‘all-star team’ vs. expectation of being a lone ‘all star’, collaborative approaches, values, management style, and opportunities for growth all matter to many BRAVE women.
  2. Relationships matter. Having a minimum of 30% women on teams[1] (any less than this will make it harder for women to show up as themselves), opportunities for networking and sponsorships (with both genders), and relationship-rich environments are some of the best strategies for retention.
  3. Language matters. “People self-select into jobs according to their preferences and their beliefs about whether or not they belong. Job descriptions provide information and behavioural cues about both.”[2]
  4. Flexibility matters. Those seeking to attract and retain women must change their paradigm from “flexibility as outside the norm” to, as Niall Fitzgerald past co-chair of Unilever once said in an interview with the Financial Times, “In principle every job can be operated in a flexible manner unless it can demonstrably be shown to be otherwise.” Claudia Goldin found that “women self select into occupations that allow for more flexibility.”[3]
  5. Quotas – as controversial as they are – work, forcing managers and recruiters to look harder. On the other hand, diversity training generally does not work. One of the few studies that explored whether diversity training translated into diversified workforces, a 30-year, 800 mid-to-large size company study in the US – found no correlation.[4] Many companies find it actually adds to the problem. Inclusion trumps diversity!


[1] According to research by Rossabeth Moss Kanter and validated by 189 countries at UN CSW meetings since.

[2] Iris Bohnet, What Works: Gender Equality by Design, p. 150-151

[3] Quoted on page 155,156 of What Works

[4] Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies.