Article

New Research Shows how Employers can Increase Applications from Women


WORK180Jul 6, 2020

A recent survey by TotalJobs of nearly 9,000 workers in the UK highlighted the importance of transparency of policies from employers and how not doing this can hinder recruitment outcomes. WORK180’s global research mirrors these findings with women rating gender neutral policies across paid parental leave and flexible working as most important.

Facts you need to know

Gone are the days of burying policies deep within the HR archives. Employees need transparency around your policies and progressive employers are going one step further; making these policies and benefits available to everyone. This in turn puts employers ahead of the secret squirrels and attracts the best candidates.

Need further proof? Here’s what the TotalJobs survey uncovered:

  • 80% of people look more negatively on employers who don’t openly share this information.

  • 22% of job seekers want to see parental leave policies whilst job hunting.

  • 20% of people would not even apply for a job without transparent policies.

Many job seekers fear they’ll be penalized by asking for parental support and flexible work options. In fact, TotalJobs discovered there are three significant fears for women during interviews;

  1. 63% of women feel that asking about policies in an interview will reduce their chance of landing the job.
  2. 17% of women think it will mean they are offered a less senior job.
  3. 15% of women think they will be offered a lower salary.

(Men shared these fears, but in lower numbers.)

Transparency pays off

We believe that to address gender inequality, every woman on the planet deserves transparency in the workplace. We’re pleased to say that we’re not alone- over 200 employers on our platform agree.

Before advertising their jobs with full transparency across their policies, these employers went through our HR Health Check and met the minimum benchmarks to become Endorsed Employers for Women. Employers who fall short when performing the health check are supported to improve and re-apply.

The progress in this space is impressive- on average, an Endorsed Employer will change a policy or benefit every three weeks. Consistent focus on not only improving these policies but being public about it, pays off. For example, mining giant BHP went from 10% of applications being from women, to 50% in 18 months.

Employers can also become Flex Able Certified, which is a certification specifically for flexible working practices. This is often a first step for companies who are working towards a full endorsement but have great flex work environments.

Words matter

The before and after results when we hold Inclusive Hiring workshops are staggering- our record so far is a 4x increase in women applicants in 1.5 weeks after a company changed their job ads.

TotalJobs research supports the value of inclusive language:

  • Less than 1% of the 753,967 jobs surveyed mentioned parental leave.
  • Less than 1% of the parental leave mentioned was for adoption.
  • There were more than twice as many gendered phrases (such as ‘maternity leave’) than neutral phrases (such as ‘parental leave’).

Gender-neutral language contributes to increased equality. When we talk about ‘maternity leave’, we embed the expectation that mothers should do the majority of the parenting. And what about same-sex couples? Are men supposed to apply for ‘maternity leave’ when they’re the primary carer?

Some of the more progressive employers are shifting to equal paid parental leave, without breaking entitlements down by primary/secondary carers. Deloitte’s parental leave policies are a great example.

Are your recruiters walking the talk?

A year or so ago, we received a call from a woman who got shut down immediately when she brought up flexible working in an interview. It was upsetting to me because she applied with an Endorsed Employer. It also did not make sense because they were one of the early adopters of flexible working and very passionate about making this available to everyone. As is turned out, the interview was with an external recruiter, who chose the easy route by rejecting any conversations which may require some flexibility. He was looking for someone 9-5, no exceptions made.

The woman who reached out was an influencer among women engineers and you can imagine the potential damage to this company’s employer brand that could have occurred.

With her permission, we contacted the employer about her experience. They were also upset that their good work in the flexibility space was being undone, one interview at a time. The external recruiter is no longer working with them and their brand in that instance remained intact.

This was just one of many examples where the recruitment process failed the company’s vision and the reason we created Insight180.

Insight180 enables candidates to anonymously provide feedback on their interview and their employee experience if successful. The feedback is fed back to employers and has played a key part in the gap between what the employer wants to be known for, and what the candidate experiences.

In summary, no one is perfect. In our experience, women value the transparency across policies, even when a company may not have the most competitive offerings. Starting with transparency is the first step, followed by continuous improvement.

To perform a self assessment on your HR policies, click here.

To stay across best and next practice policies from Endorsed Employers for Women, subscribe to our fortnightly updates.


About the author

WORK180

WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.


WORK180 is a jobs board with a difference! We pre-screen employers on paid-parent leave, pay equity, flexible working arrangements and more. Find your dream job here.


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