Women in recruitment: Breaking old stereotypes

Life at Talent
Life at Talent
United Kingdom
United Kingdom

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a career in recruitment? If it’s an overly salesy workplace or an old-school “boy’s club”, think again. 

Recruitment has come a long way since the male-dominated environment associated with the industry a couple of decades ago. While there’s no denying that more needs to be done to achieve true equality in the workplace, many women are successfully breaking down the old recruitment stereotypes and excelling in their roles. 

We asked some of our female consultants across the globe (based in Berlin, Bristol, Manchester, Sydney and Wellington) for their insights on what it’s really like to be a woman in recruitment. Chinyere Stapleton, Josephine Kempson, Liberty Blackmore, Sarah Bellis and Tara Ritchie share their thoughts on how the industry has transformed - and what makes being a recruiter at Talent truly stand out from the rest. 

Despite how much the industry has moved on, some still see recruitment as male dominated. How do you think the industry has changed over the years?

Chinyere: When I started in recruitment almost 10 years ago, I was the only woman in our 360 team. But the industry (and Talent specifically) definitely doesn’t feel male dominated to me now. I know lots of women in recruitment and it feels like we all rally together and want other women in the industry to do well too!  

Tara: Having joined the team at Talent two years ago, it’s great to see that a large stake of high performers in the business are women. Working in a team with two high-achieving women in both Lucy and Majella, I continue to be inspired to exceed expectations and prove how much value we bring to the business.

Sarah: I was the only woman who had children when I first started in recruitment (25 years ago!). There were no women in senior management roles and the culture felt very “macho”. Women were often seen as too “emotional” to be leaders, and I sometimes felt like I had to fight tooth and nail to be given the same career opportunities as men. The industry has improved dramatically since then and it’s great to see more women in leadership roles now - with opportunities being based on genuine merit and ability regardless of gender. 

What would be your advice for women who are starting out in the recruitment industry?

Josephine: Be yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just because there is a perception that recruitment is male dominated (which it isn’t), that doesn’t mean that as a woman you can’t succeed. Working somewhere like Talent really showcases that recruitment is full of inspirational and motivational women who are successful. 

Tara: I think it’s really important to leverage the amazing women you have around you, learning from their experiences and honing your skills. At Talent, I’ve found our mentor program to be a great way to do this. It’s great to have so many inspiring women around you in your corner, encouraging you to the best of your ability. 

Do you believe there are genuine equal opportunities for women in recruitment? 

Chinyere: Yes and no. I work with tons of amazing women at Talent and I can think of 5 UK-based recruitment companies off the top of my head who have brilliant female CEOs. However, there’s no denying that there are still significantly more companies in this industry with male CEOs - but this is definitely not something isolated just to recruitment. This is a workplace-wide issue. To me, it’d feel more equal if there were more women in top roles. It sounds cheesy, but you can’t be what you can’t see!

Liberty: I definitely think a lot of opportunities to progress as a recruiter are genuinely based on merit. If you put in the work, you will do better, regardless of whether you identify as male or female. But there is still a way to go in some aspects, and men may be seen as more “equipped” by a client to handle certain executive roles - which is of course not the case. 

Are there any specific challenges you think women in recruitment are more likely to face? If so, what are they and how would you overcome them?

Josephine: For me, the biggest issue is often cultural rather than being related to recruitment specifically. While New Zealand doesn’t see a gender divide, there are some cultures that do - and these cultures often dominate the tech industry. For me to do my job successfully, there’s a lot of information I need to ascertain from candidates and there are some cultures who aren’t comfortable with a female asking those types of questions. 

When faced with this situation, my approach is to explain the importance of a candidate being open and honest. And in return, I’ll of course give the same respect. It can be tough to break down that wall and I sometimes feel deflated by it, but I just have to remind myself that it isn’t personal and that they come from a very different background to myself. 

Chinyere: Lots of the women I know in this industry are parents or caregivers, so naturally might have reasons not to be able to work the same hours as their male counterparts. This has changed significantly since Covid though, which is great to see. But I think more inclusivity could be achieved by offering greater flexibility to everyone, regardless of their gender or home situation. 

Sarah: In the past, flexibility around childcare was always challenging. But Covid has dramatically shifted the way we work, with hybrid working now considered the norm which is hugely helpful for many working mums (and dads!). My advice would be that if your employer isn’t willing to be flexible and offer you the support you need, there’s always a better option out there. Before joining Talent, I stayed in a previous company for years simply because I didn’t realise other companies offered more. 

How has your experience been as a woman working in recruitment at Talent? 

Liberty: Honestly brilliant! There’s a great culture here of actually following through with initiatives - as opposed to just talking about them without taking real action. Things can often get brushed under the rug in companies with sales targets, but Talent makes sure this doesn’t happen. I also get to work with a great female manager every day in Lisa, which is really motivating and inspiring from my position. 

Tara: Working in a company with genuine gender balance means I’ve been given equal opportunities to my male colleagues. I also think it’s great that Talent highlights the need for more women in technology through a number of initiatives and events in the past. 

Chinyere: Talent is the first company I’ve ever worked with that offers a menstrual leave policy (which I helped to initiate and present during a board meeting). It’s such a great initiative that makes a genuine difference to a lot of people within the business who menstruate. Overall, I feel really supported here and it definitely feels like both my colleagues and the leadership team want me to be the best I can be. 

Josephine: To be honest, Talent doesn’t see me as a gender and I really like that. I’ve been neither advantaged or disadvantaged due to my gender which I think is a very positive thing. Everything I have achieved has come from my own personal drive to succeed and my work ethic. I love having strong female leaders at Talent who are inspirational, but I also love that we have strong male leaders too. 

Sarah: Talent has a real inclusive culture, with success and career progression being based on merit - it has nothing to do with gender. My team alone is made up of 60% women and we have many other female directors across the business. The diversity within our teams naturally brings a richer culture with different perspectives we can all learn from, which is great to see. 

Interested in joining team Talent? You’ll receive all the support you need to achieve your career goals - and will get to work with and learn from a brilliant bunch of people every day. Click here to view our current open roles.

This piece was written and published in 2022.

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