While diversity in the finance field may be increasing, guiding women in finance into top financial positions remains a challenge. According to CFO, just 13.8 percent of top finance jobs at Fortune 500 companies are held by women. But cultivating top female talent pays off. As Lynn Doughtie of KPMG writes for Forbes: "Study after study finds that companies with more women in leadership roles tend to be considered 'higher quality' companies, with better returns on equity. Companies that utilize female talent effectively also are 45 percent more likely to report improved market share."
So what steps can you take to understand barriers to women's advancement and strategically build a female-friendly talent pipeline for finance positions?
Rethink Your Recruiting Process
When hiring for top financial positions, a strong finance background is a must. Yet diversifying your criteria to look at factors such as experience growing a business or international expertise can help expand the candidate pool of promising women for senior positions, suggests CFO.
Organizations can also take deliberate steps to diversify their candidate pool and attract more women candidates. Gartner recommends implementing gender-blind recruiting processes in addition to talent identification strategies to reduce biases in the hiring process.
Create Advancement Plans
Creating opportunities for female talent within your organization isn't just about recruitment. You must also focus on advancement paths that help women grow within your organization. Gartner notes that "[a]lthough finance departments are succeeding in hiring women for entry-level positions, they are failing to advance, retain, and recruit them into leadership roles." In part, it's about understanding and prioritizing the factors that female leadership values. Respect in the workplace, a friendlier environment and comprehensive health care benefits are examples Gartner provides.
Businesses that are successful in advancing top female talent provide them with support. Consider connecting high-potential candidates with senior executive mentors who can help them think about career development in different ways. Ensure that talented female staff are included in management advancement programs. Be strategic in deploying your most effective resources to help women succeed in your organization.
Emphasize Work-Life Balance
While candidates across all demographics are increasingly focused on work-life balance, it may be disproportionately critical for attracting and retaining top female candidates. CNN reports that 97 percent of respondents in a survey of female millennials noted that work-life balance was important. Women often bear more responsibilities associated with child care, aging parents and other nonwork issues.
Organizations can help create female-friendly workplaces by looking into policies like telecommuting arrangements or flexible schedules and creating alternative career paths for periods when employees face demands outside the office. Another strategy is to focus on what Gartner calls "on-ramps," which help "ease the transition back into the labor force for women who have voluntarily taken time off for family reasons."
Make Advancing Women a Strategic Priority
As the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed. By making the recruitment, retention and development of women within your organization a priority, you're more likely to see progress and key stakeholders paying attention. In the "2017 Accounting MOVE Project Report," it's recommended that organizations:
-Choose two to three metrics related to women's advancement in the organization and monitor them regularly.
-Connect progress in advancing female employees to how senior management are compensated and evaluated.
-Include senior women in succession planning and strategic discussions.
The evidence shows that having women in senior leadership positions can help improve your organization's financial performance and culture. Finding the way to make that a reality and grow your talent pipeline to better attract, retain and promote women takes a systematic commitment and investment. From assessing your HR processes to evaluating the way that you advance managers, increasing women in finance in your organization at all levels is a worthy and financially rewarding endeavor.
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