HR’s big task: Getting women back in the workforce

To get 3 million women back, 'we’re going to have to be creative,' panelists said at the Women in HR Tech Summit.
By: | September 28, 2021

Over the last 18 months, scores of working women have felt the brunt of the pandemic, with many being forced to choose between family and career and ultimately leaving their jobs as a result. Now, hiring and talent acquisition managers are feeling the heat as they work to get women back into the workforce.

“It’s going to take a lot to get the workforce back to where it used to be,” Chandra Sanders, director of Rise, a scholarship program at The Mom Project, said Tuesday during a session at the Women in HR Tech Summit at the HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas.

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To get 3 million women back into the workforce, HR will have to look at this group holistically, she added. “We’re not coming back to the same rules we had before the pandemic.”

HR leaders should also be sure to prioritize education, diversity efforts and more to help attract female workers, panelists said during the session.

Related: Is HR tech the key to fixing the women’s workforce crisis?

“Look at transferable skills,” Sanders said. “Moms are the C-suite of their entire family.” At The Mom Project, which connects working moms to employment opportunities, the organization is upskilling and educating women in areas like UX design and data analytics, and giving women tools for success.

To improve diversity efforts in talent acquisition, Sanders says HR leaders need to focus on three areas: diversity spend, organizational representation and retention.

Northwell Health’s Elina Petrillo, The Mom Project’s Chandra Sanders and moderator Jeanette Leeds present at the 2021 HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas.

Having representation throughout the organization is crucial to engaging possible applicants, including women, said Elina Petrillo, assistant vice president, HR technology and service center functions, at Northwell Health.

Having a candidate look within an organization and say, “This person looks like me,” is an important aspect of attracting candidates, she said.

It’s also important to put leaders through more unconscious bias training.

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“You learn this is a natural process,” Petrillo added. “What you also learn is you have those unconscious biases. You tell me you went to a certain university and you love music; you already have my vote for you.”

To help combat bias, be sure to have a diverse panel in your interview process—“especially for leadership roles,” she said. “Have a panel that consists of different people and asking different questions,” she said.

“It’s no longer just about, ‘Do you have experience in this business area?’ but looking for soft skills. How do you collaborate? How many people have you mentored?” she asked.

“We’re going to have to be creative,” Sanders added. “We’ve lost a decade of job gains. We have to do all we can to get women in back in the workplace.”

Nick Otto is HRE’s senior digital editor. He is a professional communicator with more than a decade of demonstrated accomplishments in newspaper and trade publishing. He has spent the past five years covering the employee benefits space and holds bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He can be reached at notto@lrp.com or follow him on twitter @Ottografs.

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