Companies need to close the gender gap to address the skills gap

27th February 2018

Next week on the 8th March will be International Women’s Day, this year’s theme is #PressforProgress which has a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. It aims to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

There are many areas where we can begin to address gender inclusivity, from the boardroom through to early careers education that showcases female role models in male-dominated industries, and there are many reasons why we should. Work experience can play a vital role in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce from the very outset to ensure employers make the most of key skills both young women, and men, have to offer.

Skills to succeed

A number of studies have shown that employers favour transferable skills over hard skills. Skills, which fall under the so-called term soft or transferable skills, are hard to learn and develop, they include communication, collaborative problem solving and task prioritisation.

In the most recent OECD’s PISA test, which measures the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds across 72 countries, it found that girls are better at collaborative problem-solving than boys, with the UK’s gender performance gap larger than the OECD average.

These results have great implications for the future workforce, as collaborative problem-solving is a skill growing in demand. Many companies like Google reiterate the importance of collaborative efforts to remove roadblocks at work, and this skill is within the top four skills their very best employees possess.

It’s time to catch up

Take the tech sector as an example, Manpower Group’s recent report highlights communication, problem-solving and collaboration as the ‘most valued’ so-called soft skills in this industry, yet for employers they are the hardest to find, this creates a skills gap within the sector. Taking on board the analysis from the PISA test will help to address this gap, but firstly the sector needs to close the gender gap.

The progress of a company within this industry is highly dependent on the valued skills outlined in the report by Manpower Group - the key traits which young women exhibit more so than their male counterparts.

Companies within this space are beginning to rethink their recruitment processes and are identifying key ways they can create a pipeline of female recruits to plug these skills gaps.

Addressing the gap

The PISA results and employer research on skills highlight the need to build on these favoured skills for the next generation of workers. This can be done by offering young people learning opportunities through work experience. Work experience allows students to gain an insight into working life and understand from an employer’s perspective what skills they need for a progressive career.

Tech companies and other male dominated industries can also use work experience as a way to attract new female talent into their organisations. Offering work experience will give female undergraduates the opportunity to trial an industry which they may not have originally considered. It’s an opportunity to engage young women and dispel myths about these sectors.

An inclusive work experience programme means companies can create lasting relationships to help plug skills gap. It helps remove unconscious bias and levels the playing field allowing businesses to access talent that may otherwise have been overlooked.

Tapping in to diverse talent

When looking to recruit candidates for work experience opportunities, platforms such as Placer – a new work experience app that directly connects businesses, students and universities – uses double-blind matchmaking technology to connect organisations with a diverse pool of bright young talent.

Using technologies like the Placer app can slowly start breaking down barriers for young women to enter a wide range of sectors and through this we can eventually remove the notion of ‘male dominated industries’. #PressforProgress

If you’re an employer looking to offer work experience, or you already do, please find out more and register with Placer  placer.co.uk/employers 

Tracey Phillipson is the Client Services Manager at Placer.

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