Q: Where is all the female talent? A: It’s out there—and here’s how to get it.

Q: Where is all the female talent?
A: It’s out there—and here’s how to get it.

At Camber Outdoors, this question (in so many words) is one we’re often asked by human resources representatives and executives at our partner companies. It’s not that they’re suggesting talented women aren’t out there, but when it comes to applications received for roles ranging from bike technicians to senior marketing directors, female applicant numbers are low.

The result? Women aren’t getting hired for these roles.

As an organization founded on the principle that women should be represented in all aspects and levels of the industry, we support our partner companies in fostering gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Below are a few of the most common challenges we hear from our corporate partners, with quick-win recommendations to move the needle.

Challenge: Your company is not receiving applications from qualified female candidates.

Recommendation: Revisit your job descriptions. Like most things, language can be gendered, and the ways men and women candidates perceive their candidacy and/or fit for a given role (or company) can differ based on the words and language used in a job description.

This article from ERE Media unpacks some of the evidence on the challenges faced by recruiters in successfully placing women candidates in hard-to-fill positions where women are often underrepresented. Some of the insights gleaned from the study cited in the article center around the ways in which ‘gender-themed’ word usage unconsciously steers women away from applying for certain roles. This GovLoop article provides some actionable guidance on how to create more women-friendly job descriptions.

Recommendation: According to research, women are less likely to apply for a position if they do not meet 100% of the qualifications, while men are more likely to apply for a role if they only meet 60% of the qualifications. Forbes argues it’s a confidence factor, while Harvard Business Review contends that it’s more about perceived probability of being hired, but the end result is the same. One way to offset this reality is to proactively seek job applicants who match the qualifications you’re looking for through platforms like LinkedIn.

Recommendation: Look for talent outside of the industry. Many job descriptions state that industry-specific experience is preferred. When it comes to women candidates, in particular, this can be a bit of a non-starter, as for many segments of the active-outdoor industries, the talent pipeline starts in gear shops and at retail, where women’s representation is lower. Consider putting “outside industry experience welcome” instead of “industry-specific experience preferred” or “candidates with a love and passion for the outdoors encouraged to apply.” A diverse team of people and perspectives will drive more innovation, be more representative of your current and potential consumer base, and ultimately be more profitable.

Challenge: Your company is receiving applications for roles from women; however, men continue to be hired for these roles.

Recommendation: Consider looking at your selection practices. Do you have at least two women in your final candidate selection pool? If not, this article from the Harvard Business Review suggests that statistically your female applicant’s chances of being hired are ZERO. The great news? Increasing the number of women in the final selection pool from one to two increases the female applicant’s chances by 50%!

Recommendation: If you’re receiving applications from women, but they’re not meeting the qualifications for the role, consider using LinkedIn as a tool for targeted outreach to women candidates with the skills, expertise, and experience you’re looking for. Given the Forbes and Harvard research referenced above, you may be missing out on qualified female talent due to misperceptions of hire-ability.

Recommendation: If your company is using a recruiter for upper-level positions, require that they provide at least two women candidates in their final recommendations and more than two if your hiring managers are narrowing down the field of applicants internally.  

Challenge: Your company is relatively gender-balanced as a whole (equal numbers of women and men employees); however, when you start looking at the gender-balance in positions of leadership or decision-making, there is less balance.

Recommendation: Take a look at your talent pipeline. Does your company have practices and programs in place to cultivate and grow female talent? What is your company’s methodology for developing high-potential employees into leadership positions? If your answer to both of these questions was “I don’t know” or, “We don’t have any,” start there. Sponsorship and professional development of existing talent is not only essential to employee satisfaction and retention, but also instrumental to ensuring business sustainability and a continuous pipeline of in-house talent.

Recommendation: Circle back to some of the recommendations above and use a recruiter or targeted LinkedIn outreach to invite high-potential candidates to apply for leadership roles.

For more guidance and insights on how to cultivate gender diversity and inclusivity within your organization, check out the Camber Outdoors CEO Pledge. Companies who sign the the pledge have access to a unique support platform to help them activate on their commitment to women’s leadership as a strategic business priority. 

Formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC)


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