September 27, 2016 – Colleen Niese -

Let the Best Talent Win!

In attending this year’s Women In Parking Annual Conference, during the roundtable, Gary Neff, CEO of Park Assist commented on his hiring principles, specifically sharing he isn’t so focused on hiring to literally ensure gender balance, rather he evaluates primarily based on each candidate’s background, skill set and cultural fit.  Mr. Neff touched on a cornerstone of gender diversity with his insight, namely hiring on talent vs. comfort.

What I mean by that is probably best illustrated in an exchange I had with a female Chemical Engineer a few years ago.  She was sharing that she had very few female colleagues in her field and when I asked her why, she responded that “there aren’t many, because, there aren’t many.”  What she meant was in many industries, especially those known to be male dominated, hiring managers and executives in positions of authority, can unknowingly keep hiring and promoting those profiles they are most familiar with, i.e. other males. Combine that with lots of research that demonstrates both genders are more comfortable networking, mentoring and providing opportunities to profiles similar their own, one clear driver behind questions like why aren’t there more female Chemical Engineers, or CEOs for that matter, is suddenly revealed.

I think it’s a pretty well know statistic that those organizations who have strong gender diversity score better on employee engagement, retention and yield better profitability.  With that ideal end game in mind, many executives we work with ask how does my company get from here to there?  The complete answer is likely too complex and specific to each company’s unique culture and employee value proposition, but any organization can start with simple awareness.

Every year I attend a conference and the key note speakers and highlighted executive professionals of the event are 100% male.  While I have a great deal of respect for these individuals and the conference itself, I wonder what message does this send to an attendee base that is quite diverse? Improving gender diversity can start by just being aware of the modeling for all when an organization chooses to predominately hire and promote male profiles.  If a company recognizes that their diversity is lacking, just start having a conversation with hiring managers, HR and employees on their observations and ideas to improve gender balance.  This shift in perspective changes thoughts, which also changes conversations and ultimately decision making.

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