Staffing has long been an excellent industry for women to build rewarding careers. For a number of years now, gender balance (and even a skewing toward women) has been apparent in the employee and mid-level management ranks, but much less so at the C-level. We have made some strides. Just recently, Act-1 founder and CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd became the first female recipient of the prestigious Peter Yessne Staffing Leadership Award. Another sign of increasing gender parity in the leadership ranks, was Staffing Industry Analysts’ recent introduction of the Global Power 100— Women in Staffing list, which spotlighted the achievements of women leaders in staffing the world over. But there’s more room for growth. While 50% of the Power 100 hailed from North America, SIA’s 2016 Staffing  list for North America is less than 25% women.

What Men Can Do

Join the conversation. I recently participated in a panel event about women in leadership. Not surprisingly, the audience was overwhelmingly female. Discussions like this one cannot be exclusive to women. Women know what the issues are; men need to be part of the dialogue.

Ask women what they need and want. Building authentic relationships is what the staffing industry is all about. Managers should make an effort to get to know the people who work for them, men and women alike, finding points of commonality. Let’s face it, there is lots to talk about stereotypes that pigeonhole “women’s interests” vs. “men’s interests,” including jobs, family, communities, hobbies, entertainment and more. Once a relationship is established with a female direct report, ask her what she wants and needs to be successful in her career. These conversations take place between men all the time.

Be inclusive. Select team-building activities in which everyone can participate, regardless of gender.

Get involved. Networking, mentorship and leadership development programs, whether industry-based or company-sponsored, help women make the connections and learn the skills and strategies they need to succeed. What is missing in many of these initiatives is greater participation by men. There is much that women can learn from female role models, but with higher numbers of men in leadership roles, it makes perfect sense for more men to share their expertise with women who want to move up in the ranks.

What Women Can Do

Women need to take an active role in their own careers and support the people around them. Expect to advance based on merit, not gender. Remain both fl exible and resilient. Don’t be locked into the traditional concept of a career ladder. Today, career progression can seem more like climbing a rock wall, with rewarding moves and challenges in every direction, in pursuit of learning, experience and achievement.

  • Don’t wait for a tap on the shoulder. When you want something, go after it. Ask for it and create your own opportunity.
  • Be confident and willing to make mistakes. What’s the worst thing that can happen?
  • Expose yourself to lots of different experiences and mentors inside and outside of your organization and industry to shape your career.
  • Embrace change. Don’t ever be OK with the status quo. Look for ways to shape the business and innovate.
  • Continuously challenge yourself to learn new things in preparation for what’s next.
  • Make yourself available as a mentor to others, take an active role in impacting the next generation of leaders.

Final thoughts

It’s past time to get comfortable with the discomfort of managing differences. The ability to harness the power of our differences is what distinguishes leaders from followers.