Throughout my 25 years in the staffing industry, I’ve seen tremendous progress on gender equality in the workplace. However, some industries still have a way to go — a problem especially pronounced in the technical sectors we serve.

Many are suffering from talent shortages, and widening their recruitment to include a highly diverse population of applicants is easier said than done. But it’s a real opportunity to utilize the talents of 100% of the population, not just a small proportion.

Business leaders are increasingly aware of this and many are taking action. For example, Melinda Gates recently pledged $1 billion to promote gender equality in the US.

The message is encouraging. If you really look, the talent is there — I’ve seen it time and again that brilliant women shine in male-dominated sectors if given the opportunity to do so. If it is as simple as finding and nurturing a diverse talent pool, then surely no sector is better placed than the staffing industry. So, what can we do from our position?

Lead by example. The staffing industry is known for its diversity. But how diverse is your board? This is the next frontier for authentically leading by example. At Airswift, my goal is to achieve a 50:50 balance. Though we’re not there yet — it’s currently 60:40 — I am proud of our progress. Crucially, this isn’t achieved through positive discrimination or selecting anyone less than the best for the job. It’s achieved by making a greater effort to find and nurture female leaders throughout their careers.

We are in a unique position to impact our clients’ hiring decisions through assessing our own recruitment sources and presenting the best candidates from our curated, diverse talent pool. Nothing says: “There really are business benefits to a diverse workforce,” better than investing in one, and the sourcing talent pool for our clients.

New working practices. Technology has made it more realistic than ever to implement practices like flexible working, which can have a positive impact on female talent. In our “home” market of energy, 40% of women believe flexible working would help attract and retain talent, according to GETI 2019.

Pew Research Center states that in the US, women are paid 89 cents to a dollar versus their male counterparts. Yet, women without children are almost at par, per the “Why Women are Paid Less” episode of the Netflix documentary series Explained. Parents know that time is finite, and increase their productivity to maintain their performance. Supporting women in varied work practices can only increase diversity at all levels.

Sponsorship and networking. We are in a unique position to play a role in connecting strangers. My golden rule of networking is: “it’s not whom you know; it’s who knows you”. This means authentically connecting with others and increasing the relationship currency you possess. Women typically value this currency below performance, which can have a detrimental impact on their progression. It’s important to have strong sponsors in your career.

Sponsorship comes at another level of connectivity. We have the power to connect outstanding female colleagues with mentors from our extensive networks. Don’t leave men out of this equation; some of the best sponsors are men who guide their mentees to know their worth, understand their value, and ask for it. This ultimately favors our clients, who benefit from a deeper talent pool.

Play our part in STEM. In many technical sectors, the gender gap often starts from the paucity of women studying STEM subjects at school and at university.

Companies of every kind have a role in addressing this. As staffing industry companies, we have a broad perspective on the diverse career possibilities on offer. We can take that perspective into schools and universities to inspire the next generation — we shouldn’t just leave this to our clients. It’s time to volunteer and share the possibilities with up-and-coming talent.

The common thread is that we have an excellent vantage point across entire industries, and we are experts at finding, nurturing and connecting talent. If you believe, as I do, that there is an abundance of underutilized female talent out there, then who better to bring it to the fore?