The Co-op

The Co-op is keen to attract more women to its technical and engineering teams and has been looking closely at the way it designs and describes jobs. In particular, it has worked with a specialist external company to improve the structure, content and tone of its advertising and eliminate gender-coded language.

This is beginning to show significant results. The proportion of women applying for technical roles at the Co-op has increased from 29% to 36% over the past year. But there is still more work to be done on recruitment to ensure that the company attracts the best applicants, regardless of gender, and that this feeds through into hiring the very best people.

Why is this important?

At the Co-op, as in many businesses, technical teams tend to be male-dominated. Changing this requires a fresh look at the recruitment process. Advertising that features traditional male-oriented language – and corporate jargon – may be off-putting to women who then feel the job is not aimed at them. A more creative and open-minded approach should attract a wider talent pool and lead to therecruitment of more women.

What are the results?

Since changing their approach to recruitment, the company has seen:

  • female applicants for roles in the digital team increasing to 39% of the total, with the proportion of women being hired actually rising to 44% – a significant success story
  • six women recruited as software engineers in 2107 – out of 11 permanent roles in all
  • the proportion of female applicants in group IT going from 17% to 25%, although the proportion of women hired is only 12% – an area where much more work is needed.

What is being done?

The Co-op is working with Textio, an ‘augmented writing platform’ that checks for gender-coded language and suggests more neutral options. The Co-op’s advertising has changed in a number of ways:

  • It has actually opted for a slightly more feminine tone (rather than gender-neutral) and finds this more successful in attracting both more women and more candidates overall.
  • Job descriptions now generally include only essential rather than desirable skills and experience. There is evidence that women can be deterred by a long list of ‘nice-to-have’ qualities.
  • Recruitment data is shared quarterly with Textio which then tailors its service to suggest the language that works best for the Co-op.
  • Care is taken with images. Where these are used, men and women feature equally, and videos have been created showing inspiring women technicians and engineers.

In addition, the company is introducing unconscious bias training for managers to ensure that the recruitment process guarantees equal opportunities to all candidates.

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