CGP 11 | Fujitsu

How Fujitsu Is Working Towards Closing The Gender Pay Gap With Rachel Marsh

There’s a lot of talk on how to close the gender pay gap but what are companies actually doing to make it happen? In this episode, Head of Digital Transformation, Rachel Marsh, shares what Fujitsu has been doing to stay ahead in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She chats with Sherry Bevan on what’s worked and what hasn’t on their end. Rachel also shares how they keep track of their progress and what other companies can do to continually empower and promote the closing of the gender pay gap. They also touch on flexible working, and their research on the ethnicity pay gap. Stay tuned and get value from this insightful discussion on how to become a more proactive and progressive organization for your employees.

Listen to the podcast here:

How Fujitsu Is Working Towards Closing The Gender Pay Gap With Rachel Marsh

In this episode, we’re going to be exploring some of the initiatives that Fujitsu has implemented in order to make progress on closing the gender pay gap. To do this, I’m delighted to be talking to Rachel Marsh, who’s Head of Digital Transformation at Fujitsu. We’re going to be looking at how Fujitsu has tackled the gender pay gap and the effectiveness of those initiatives. Rachel, very warm welcome to you. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you very much.

To get us started and to set the scene and put this into context, could you tell us a bit more about your role at Fujitsu?

I’m Rachel Marsh. I’m the Head of DX at Fujitsu. What does that mean? It’s around enabling digital transformation for our customers. We have a group of people who work with existing or new customers to provide insight, advice and guidance. What we were trying to do is work with our customers to see how we can inspire them to think and act differently, to deliver business and social impact through the innovative use of technology.

Sometimes that might be technologies we can bring, or they already have systems, services and operations, and it’s how they can expand that use. For example, getting better value out of the data they have to inform how they work, generating collaboration in the way they work across their business or their ecosystem, helping them implement change and transformation, and helping them roadmap where they’re trying to go. It’s anything in that spectrum. That’s what we do.

Since gender pay gap reporting was first introduced, I know you’ve made progress in reducing the gender pay gap. I’d love to hear from you about some of the initiatives you’ve tried and how they’ve worked.

We’ve made a decision to publish early. As soon as gender pay gap reporting came in, we were in the first 1% to publish. Our results at the time, we had a median gap of 17.9. We had a lot of work to do. Over the years, we have made improvements. We’ve published our latest report and we’re at 11.8%. It’s a significant reduction but still more to do. In terms of the changes, we’ve put in place a number of initiatives. Firstly, by doing the reporting, it means we’re measuring and tracking what we’re doing.

Work your way in consideration of the work you do, the team you’re a part of, the customer you’re on, and your own preferences.

We’re holding ourselves accountable to our employees and to the public. Putting that spotlight on it has helped in the first instance. We then set out an action plan that we have built on and developed every year. We focused on four areas around how we recruit, retain, enable, and also look across this pay specifically in terms of equality at different levels. Those four areas plus the data we drive help us determine the actions, measure those actions, and see the results and the outcome.

That increase or decrease depending on which way you look at them is a huge change. Although you look at the bare numbers, it maybe doesn’t mean much. In order to achieve that, you’ve put a lot of hard work into that. You’re right. The first thing you’ve got to do is to report and measure because you can only manage what you measure. What about some of the initiatives that you’ve tried? What’s worked well for you to help you reduce your pay gap?

A number of things. If we look at recruitment, sometimes we’re working with all of our supply chains in recruitment to try and get equal lists. We’re hiring shortlists that have equality of men and women in them to even consider into roles. We’ve looked at how we advertise our roles, the language we use, the style, and change them quite significantly. We now have a single standard template that all roles must use.

We’re reducing the number of bullet points, changing the language, the style and the description to be much more inclusive. We’ve also looked at our hiring managers and the hiring approach. We have done some training for our hiring managers to support them in it, but also looking at things like having mixed panels, more than a single person so that you have a much more balanced and inclusive view when you are recruiting.

In terms of retention, we’ve put a lot of effort into the programs we do to address women’s careers and support them so that we don’t get to a retention situation. Through all of our programs, we can see a real shift in that.

By April of 2021, our attrition for female roles dropped below that of men. We’ve seen that change. A lot of the changes over the last couple of years and our response to COVID have helped in that as well. We’ve been very flexible and supportive in that space. In terms of enabling people, we have a number of things running. We have a women’s business network that’s been running for a number of years.

CGP 11 | Fujitsu
Fujitsu: By doing the reporting, we’re measuring and tracking what we’re doing. We’re holding ourselves accountable to our employees and to the public.

We have executive sponsorship, co-chairs from the business. That’s very voluntary across the group. We have lots of initiatives. They will run events, training, get-togethers, networking sessions, and also some targeted programs.

We have two specific talent programs, one for our earlier career females. Those who are in the beginning are looking for more mentoring advice and guidance. That’s called Future Me, and one called Leading Lights, which is about helping women get into those more senior positions. All of those things together are adding up to making the change. Each year, we review what we’re doing, the impact it’s having, measure it and then tweak the next level.

You are constantly reviewing, refining, and continuing to do more to close that gender pay gap. What do you think has had the biggest impact? What’s made the most difference?

It’s a daily conversation now. It used to we want to have a program and initiatives, and it gets spoken about. Now it’s something that’s talked about all the time. It’s become a very common conversation. As an individual, personally, the things that have had an impact where I’ve either taken part or been a participant have been some of our talent programs. When I speak to people who’ve joined those, they’ve rated them highly.

For example, our Future Me program aimed at earlier career talent is recognizing the coaching and advice people might want, particularly for females. We’ve picked nine topics. It’s a structured mentoring program. It might be how to have your voice heard in meetings, networking, presenting, a number of those kinds of things where we can talk through. I’m a mentor in the Future Me program. I’ve worked with the ladies there. We talk through each topic. We share some actual insights, research studies, practical advice, and also about my own experiences. I’ll ask them about the situations they’re going through and explain what they might try.

The next time we meet, we’ll talk about the things they’ve tried and how did it work. It’s a supported learning journey around topics that we know have value at that point. The feedback there is good. We’re on another year of running that program. The Leading Lights program as well is supporting women to get into more senior roles. If we look at our gender pay gap reporting, where we can see the biggest impact for many companies is that the proportion of women in more senior roles is definitely smaller.

How can we support people in that career through the business? We have good figures at the lower ends, and we’re improving at the upper. How do we move through the middle of it is now going to be our next focus as well. It’s those specific talent programs. They’re more than just an event, it’s a continued conversation. It becomes very personal to the individual. Those are the things I get feedback from people. They are valued. More than anything, it’s the fact that this is a continuous and consistent conversation.

You mentioned there that it’s now become a daily conversation. It’s being talked about all the time. In other companies, I’ve heard people say that when it gets to that point, sometimes they worry about it. Is it going to turn people off having the conversation because it’s talked about all the time?

Certainly, that can happen. There have been points where you start feeling, “Is it too much? Do we need to ensure we’re looking across the rest of our populations?” We have a good program of initiatives across all types of diversity and support all talent in our business in how they progress. We’ve looked at how we have supporting conversations and change our performance management type conversations with every individual. We are making sure we’re trying to be balanced, but there have been times where you could see some of the reactions among people, both men and women of, “Is this too much?”

It’s about bringing it back to the personal value and the business value, and ensuring we are fair and equal. That way, we can stand up to, “Is it too much? Is it fair? Is it appropriate?” We have internal processes for let’s say somebody gets promoted or changed. In the paperwork you submit, ask the question, “What impact will this have?” Along the way, you’ll continue to be reminded to think about it. We make decisions without thinking about the broader consequences. When you then pause to think about them, it puts it front of mind, “Am I doing anything that helps or am I doing anything that’s detrimental?”

It’s those little constant reminders. People with the very best intentions will forget or do something that’s not quite appropriate, but it’s having those constant reminders to give you the opportunity to take that step back. With forced homeworking during COVID and locked down, how has that affected your gender pay gap or your female talent?

We’ve published reports every year. Our numerical results for 2021 are pretty much unchanged from 2020. We’ve had a drop of 0.2 on our median numbers and an increase of 0.1 on our mean. They’ve stayed the same, it has not changed. Considering the several months, to stay the same, I find it quite phenomenal. As a company, our response across the globe as an individual employee of the company was brilliant.

As an example, we already have policies in place to support carers’ leave. We instantly published that carer’s leave is available to everyone for whatever reason they need to take time off, whether it’s to look after children or elderly people themselves. Also, as soon as we rolled into January of 2021 and we realized we were going straight into another lockdown, day two of the year, there was another note out, “We’re going to do the five days again this 2021.” As a working mother with children in lockdown, I’ve had ten extra days of paid leave to support the carer’s leave during 2020 and 2021. For me individually, that’s a massive thing that’s helped.

We’ve also said straight away that everyone can work from home. As an organization, we’re a technology organization. As soon as it was looking likely, we started testing if that was going to be possible. It has been possible. All of our employees are operating fully from home. The approach from everyone was employee first, support our customers, everything else, don’t worry. That very flexible approach has continued. We’ve formalized it more now. A lot of companies have said, “You must come back to the office or you will work at home.”

Our stance, we call it Work Your Way. Every individual can decide what’s right for them. Also, a lot of the time, we might work with other teams or customers. It’s not just an individual choice. It’s a guided framework to look at, why do you need to connect, what do you need to be doing work-wise, and what’s your home situation. Not everyone has the home environment that supports that and personal desires. It’s that balanced view. You keep relooking at that through the year and making decisions that suit you, the work you’re doing, and the customer and team you’re a part of. That’s our approach going forward.

All of those things have meant that for everyone but also for working women, we’re seeing that approach of flexibility and support. Care has come out strongly. It’s come back in our employee engagement type surveys that employees have seen that increase in feeling cared for by the company and supported through this period. The fact that our reporting figures for 2021 stayed the same with everything else going on, I feel positive about what the last months have been like as an employee of Fujitsu and how they’ve responded.

It’s one of the key things moving forward as more organizations are following your approach to having that flexibility about how often you work from home. We see in the press that some organizations are having a very black and white, “You must be in the office five days a week. You must be in the office at least three days a week.” With organizations like yours who are taking that more flexible “work your way” approach, longer-term, it means you’re going to attract more of the best talent regardless of their gender or their ethnicity. People want that approach now from an employer.

You bring your whole self to work, and that is welcomed. That diversity of behaviour, thinking, and experience is valued.

In terms of the spread geographically, therefore, where you can appeal to employees and people are making choices. We’ve seen in the press in the market, people are making choices about where they live. As you go through your career, different choices are important to you according to what’s happening in your life at that point. The fact now is that you’re able to make more choices. I’ve got people who have moved near a family, moved away from cities, and changed their home base completely. People have changed the type of work. People are rethinking their careers in terms of training and development as well. All of those things are more possible. We want to show that we’re supporting that.

At the end of the day, we’re a business. We have customers to support, and it has to be done in context, which is why we’re not saying it’s black or white. We’re saying, “Work your way in consideration of the work you do, the team you’re a part of, the customer you’re on, and your own preferences.” In the meantime, our buildings and our locations, we’ve got a bit of a hub strategy in terms of key offices and buildings where we will have a presence. We are already refurbishing some of them moving to more collaborative working spaces. We’ve continued that program.

As we’ve started reopening our offices, we’re opening our main hubs first, and putting effort into some of the refurbishments in those areas as well. If I go into our London head office, there are hot desks available to book, but there are less desks because it’s more a place where you’ll go for meetings. There are more circular tables or meeting spaces rather than necessarily meeting rooms for more formal and informal types of working spaces.

These are the things we’ve done. If you do go in, it’s supportive. If you don’t, how do you mix the half in and half out? We’re working hard in terms of our hybrid space as well. With my own teams, we’re having team meetings. Some people are there. Some people aren’t. How can we make everything work so that everyone is still included? We’re not there yet but we’re all learning.

Some of what you mentioned there is reflected in the white paper that I’m publishing on the impact of the hybrid work model on the gender pay gap. It’s about looking at these things and being intentional about how you implement and what to implement rather than just being a bit more ad hoc about it. Fujitsu has done lots of great work over the past years to reduce that gender pay gap. What have been your key learnings?

That it is a continual and long process. It takes concerted effort. It’s also helped and it’s reflected in other areas. For example, we have published our ethnicity pay gap. We made the decision to publish early. The learnings of the work we’ve done over the years were able to apply to other areas as well as we continue to try and improve. We have a phrase, “Being completely you so that you bring your whole self to work.” That is welcomed. That diversity of behavior thinking experience is valued.

CGP 11 | Fujitsu
Fujitsu: The approach from everyone was employee first, then support our customers. Everything else, don’t worry.

What you’ve done at Fujitsu is great. You’ve been able to see those gaps close. It’s demonstrated to other organizations that if you set about making progress, you can achieve it even though perhaps at first it might seem like it’s hard work and that it’s taking time. How much you’ve reduced your pay gap bias is quite significant.

It has been good and it’s nice to see. It also shows we still got quite a way to go and we haven’t got it all right yet. We are continuing to work on our programs. We’re seeing a shift in our more senior positions but we’ve got a long way to go. For example, we’ve seen some women from our Leading Lights program, which was supporting those in the most senior and move into key leadership positions. We’re seeing promotion opportunities for those in the younger space. We measure those things. It takes time to see the results and the impact. It’s not attributable to the fact that they’ve been in a program. There’s so much more that goes on, but seeing the order of these things are adding up to making a difference.

We have to continue to do that work, particularly for our middle level, those quarters 2 and 3 of both salary or grading, however you look at it in your organization. That’s important that we keep doing that. Building more data, we’ve made a point over the years of enhancing the data that people are voluntarily able to add about themselves so that we can track more.

For example, with ethnicity, we’ve been pushing and sharing that people can add their ethnicity data. They don’t have to but we’re encouraging everyone to do it by talking about the reasons why and the value. We allow people to pick multiple categories and what they prefer not to say, or they don’t have to participate. Through giving examples, we’re encouraging all of these things that when we run programs and we’re in schemes, we’re tracking it all so that we have more data into helping us determine the next set of actions.

It’s fantastic and I’m very positive. To bring us to a conclusion, Rachel, if people wanted to get in touch with you and talk about what you’ve done at Fujitsu, how can they best do that?

I’m on LinkedIn. I’m happy to be contacted and continue this conversation. Fujitsu also actively tries and plays a part where we are keen to learn from other people. We’re happy to share the learning that we’ve gone through, both good and bad. We do not get everything right all the time. That’s a part of the continued conversation of helping overall the situation improve for everybody. It speaks to the values that the company have that we express in how we operate. That resonates for me personally. I’m happy to be contacted.

 Thank you so much, Rachel.

Thank you so much to my guest, Rachel Marsh, who’s Head of Digital Transformation at Fujitsu. I enjoyed talking about how Fujitsu has been tackling the gender pay gap and doing it successfully.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. You can find more episodes at If you are thinking about or you’ve already introduced a hybrid work model into your organization, you’ll find it useful to download a copy of my white paper that I’ve published on the website as well. If that sparks a thought in your mind, book an exploratory call with me and you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work I do at technology companies on attracting, developing, and retaining your female talent so you can close the gender pay gap.

Email me at to book your call. Thank you.

Important Links:

About Rachel Marsh

CGP 11 | FujitsuRachel is Head of Digital Transformation at Fujitsu.

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies

Recruitment Tips That Will Help You Attract More Women To Apply For Your Job Vacancies With Nicola Spooner

There has been a shift in organizations where the value of diversity in the workforce is now recognized. But how do we also shift our recruitment strategies to attract more women to apply for job vacancies, especially in male-dominated industries? In this episode, Sherry Bevan sits down with Nicola Spooner of Nicola Spooner Consulting to give recruiters tips on how to achieve just that. An expert in project management recruitment, Nicola has valuable insights on mitigating gender inequalities through your recruitment processes. Tune in and learn how these can help you drive your business forward!

Listen to the podcast here

Recruitment Tips That Will Help You Attract More Women To Apply For Your Job Vacancies With Nicola Spooner

Thank you so much for joining me. I’d love for you to come back next episode and to make that even easier, you just need to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player. Let’s get into the show. In this episode we’re going to explore how to attract more women to apply for your job vacancies so that you start to close that gender pay gap. I’m delighted to be talking to Nicola Spooner of Nicola Spooner Consulting. She is an expert in project management recruitment and we’re going to be discussing how you can attract more women to apply for your job vacancies. Welcome, Nicola. Thank you so much for joining me.

Sherry, thanks for having me.

To set the scene, it might be helpful if you could just explain to us a bit more about what you do and that will set the scene for people and set the context of the discussions we’re having.

When it’s more recruitment business, we are focused on project management recruitment. What that generally means is we have a very male-dominated industry that we work in. Not only that but a lot of those projects are technology-related projects. That adds another dimension of gender inequality in terms of people that work in that space. I’ve been recruiting for many years and I’ve worked in lots of different areas. I did spend quite a long time focusing on HR recruitment, which was very female-focused. I’ve seen both sides of the gender side of that.

You’ve got loads of recruitment experience. One thing I noticed, recruiters and Talent Acquisition Managers, they’re often bemoaning the lack of women applying for roles because their company is asking them to provide a diverse shortlist. Yet, when I work one-to-one with female talent, who’s got the experience, the skills, they talk about the lack of opportunities available. It seems to me there’s a big disconnect between the recruiters and the female talent. I’m just wondering, is this something you’ve noticed as well?

Businesses as a whole, both recruiters and Hiring Managers have shifted away from any discrimination against women to a general positivity about wanting to attract women into their businesses. They can see the benefits of that diverse way of thinking and diverse approach to project management. You’re right. there is a bit of a disconnect because there are lots of businesses wanting to attract women into project management or technology project management specifically but then they don’t seem to be as many opportunities out there for women.

The real disconnect is around when women are looking for work, how they perceive those job adverts. There are hundreds of jobs adverts out there for project managers in a range of different industries. I feel that sometimes they’re not necessarily written in a way to attract the market that they’re looking to target.

That makes perfect sense. When you say they’re not written in a way to attract that target market, what could recruiters do to make sure those job ads are appealing to the female talent?

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies
Job Vacancies: A job ad is a sales document. It should speak to the target audience.

There are two things about it. First of all is the job ad itself. Traditionally, they’ve been a copy and paste of a job description because it’s quick, easy and it just gets it out there. There’s also a lot of adverts with a long list of bullet points of what criteria somebody needs to meet. That’s quite an old-fashioned way of attracting people to businesses.

Essentially, this is a sales document and it should be speaking to the target audience and it should be trying to attract people to that opportunity within that company, rather than having a list of a certain number of years experience, you must’ve worked with this technology or managed a team of X number of people. All of those criteria can put people off especially women who feel that they need to have achieved everything on the job description to want to apply. It’s a different approach that they have to job seeking. If companies look at that as a sales document to start with, that’s automatically going to attract more people to them, to speaking to the people that they want to attract.

The second point is around the language that they use. This is where it gets interesting because men and women are attracted to different words. When I first started in recruitment many years ago, we would look for people and target people, using words like assertive, dynamic, driven, confident and all of those strong words to try and find the people that we were looking for roles. What I’ve realized more is that those words do appeal to male applicants and put female applicants off. By changing the language that you use can open up those adverts to speak to women.

Interestingly, I did a bit of work on this for a Senior Manager for a project delivery team and I wasn’t finding any female applicants applying. It’s the more senior you go up and project management, the fewer women there are because there hasn’t been open to that for quite a while. What I found was by changing the language I used on the advert, very quickly, there were many more female applicants applying. I was using words like collaborative, honest, supportive, inclusive and trusting.

It attracted good-quality female applicants, which made a huge difference to that shortlist. The shortlist was much more diverse going forward. I’m one of those applicants who got the job and started and is doing a fantastic job there. Those words just appealed more to people or to females. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to put male applicants off.

That was what I was going to ask. You’ve ended up with a fantastic diverse shortlist. My question in my head, as you were talking is “What happens to the male candidates? Does it put them off,” but you’re saying it doesn’t?

By changing the language that you use, you can open up your job adverts to speak to women.

I did a poll on LinkedIn. I put four words out there to say, “Which one would appeal to you most when you are looking for a job.” I used collaborative, honest, self-sufficient and driven. Two of them were collaborative and honest, and I thought what would happen was women would say that and the men would say self-sufficient and driven. That’s not the outcome that I got. Significantly, more people went for collaborative and honest. Of those, they were 50/ 50 men and women split. When I looked at self-sufficient and driven, there were a lot fewer people that were attracted by those words and of those many more women.

I’m just wondering then, when you found that you got this diverse shortlist of candidates, which is fantastic, did you attract a different type of male project manager? Could you put your finger on something being different about those or it didn’t put men off so you still got the same quality of candidate to apply?

The quality of the candidate was really good. I probably did have a different style of candidates apply. The role itself was very much a man management role looking to coach, develop and mentor people. All of those words very much suited the style of person that would fit well in that role. It did attract a different type of candidate that I would normally purchase, a senior manager role within project management. That’s what we needed someone to be collaborative, empathetic and supportive of their team. By speaking to the people that you’re trying to attract, the hope is that you would attract better-aligned people to your role.

It seems to make great sense what you’re describing. You’re making sure that job ad is a sales document so that you’re selling the job and presumably selling the organization as well. I would just like to come back to the other question that you talked about. We talked about the language so words like collaborative, empathic are more likely to appeal to women. You mentioned as well about having that long list of criteria. Talk to me a bit more about that and how that influences the candidates.

It’s like a checklist. If I sent on a job description chances are, they’ll come back and say, “It looks great, Nicola but I haven’t done points 18, 19 and 20. I’m not sure I’m right for the role.” People want to feel that they can do the job but women approach that in a slightly different way to men. Most of the female applicants that I speak to like to think that they could go in on day one, be competent and capable of doing everything on that criteria list.

Whereas, the male applicants are happy, “I’ll give it a go and I’m sure I’ll be fine.” It’s because of that, if you do want to attract more female applicants and we’re talking now about shortlist, we’re not talking heavily about being the right person for the role but if they’re not applying in the first place and you don’t even get them in the mix to consider them, a list of criteria is just going to put people off.

I always think it’s good to imagine, you’re talking to somebody over a glass of wine or a coffee and telling them what that job is as you’re talking to a person. If you approach a job a little bit more like that then people can imagine themselves in the role a bit more rather than checking off a list of criteria, which quite honestly not all of it is going to be essential to deliver that role in a good way.

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies
Job Vacancies: By speaking to the people that you’re trying to attract, the hope is that you would attract better aligned people to your role.

I sometimes see on job ads some organizations will have essential and then desirable criteria. I know when I work with women on a one-to-one basis they’ll read these twenty different criteria for the role. They’ll then say to me, “I can’t apply for this job. It’s my dream job but I can’t apply because I haven’t got any experience of ABC and it’s difficult.” Does that apply equally whether you’re using essential and desirable criteria?

In my mind, you don’t want to be discounting people at this stage. As a recruiter, there are always people that will apply that don’t have the necessary experience with skills to deliver that role. I’m huge on transferable skills and giving opportunities for people in looking at the potential in people. Ultimately, they need to have some core ability to deliver roles, desirable or essential, the list just discounts people and good example is a global experience.

I do a lot of work with law firms and they’re implementing global technologies. A lot of people wouldn’t apply for a role if they didn’t have global experience. Now all the hiring managers that I would talk to would say, “It doesn’t matter about the global experience. We’ve got people on the ground and all of our regions that can do X, Y and Z. All they need to do is understand that’d be an added complexity to that piece of technology being delivered.” It’s on the job ad and job description as an essential. It’s putting people off when it’s just becoming an unnecessary blocker.

That’s an interesting one because having worked in a law firm previously myself, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I had global experience. We’re an international firm, so we had offices all over the place and any rollout that we did or any project that we were managing, inevitably, we were doing it across multiple offices and countries. Are there other criteria that get put on the job ad because it’s needed but not really essential like the global experience?

Legal experience is one that I come up with a lot. One of my favorite things to do is challenge hiring managers on why and look at transferable industries and experiences that can come to that. Several years of experience is another one. They must have between 3 to 5 years experience. That might fit into their brackets within their salary bandings or team structure. There’s no reason why someone with 6 or 7-years’ experience or more couldn’t do that role if they would be happy to.

All of these things can add up to a very quick, “That role is not for me,” but it could be a really good opportunity. Rather than trying to put off applying for that role so you just get people that take your perfect criteria list, why not open it up and tell people why it’s such a great company to work for? What they will get out of coming to work there? What opportunities are available for career progression? You’re talking to people who will then get excited about that opportunity and it could be the right person for the role. Their lists of criteria do put people up and stop people from applying.

I suppose it’s a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole that you try and squeeze yourself in. If you think that you’re not going to fit then it just puts you off.

You can’t just keep throwing salary at roles to attract people. There has to be more about it than that.

It absolutely does and everyone does. People want more diverse teams. They want diverse ways of thinking in their teams. Project management in technologies is quite a male-dominated industry. There are some good females coming up through the ranks. We want to encourage them to go for these more senior roles and to push themselves. On the flip side, as much as all the companies that can do around how they change the way they speak and attract people, initially there is that blocker that women do have, which is around not believing that they can take that next step up and do that challenging role. That’s another thing that’s a difficult thing to overcome.

I definitely say that in my one-to-one work, the number of times I’ve worked with women, they’ve seen their dream job and they think, “I don’t think I can quite apply for it because I’ve only got 7 years experience and they’re asking for 8 years’ experience” when 1-year experience is not going to make much difference. It often seems to me, that the hiring manager or the recruiter, it feels sometimes some of the criteria have been plucked out of the air.

I know that when you do get to talk to the organization themselves, I suppose it’s not enough thought has gone into that job ad. Women and men tend to have different ways of behaving and communicating. Women tend to want to be the perfect candidate before they put themselves forward but nobody’s a perfect candidate.

You’ve hit the nail on the head. They just approach it differently. There is a bit of responsibility for women to try and change their own way of thinking and look at themselves for doing that having a bit more of a growth mindset and challenging themselves. If you put it all together and you challenge yourself to apply for that role, even if you don’t meet all the criteria because the job ad is speaking to you a lot more personally. It’s making you feel like it’s a place you’d want to work in, a job you’d like to do, you could be successful in. If all of that comes together then you might end up with more applicants that would bring value to your business and deliver that role. It would be a more diverse shortlist as well.

We’ve talked about the job ad. We’ve talked about the language, the criteria that are used in making sure that you have a sensible list of criteria. You’ve talked about starting off by making it more of a sales document, what else can companies do to attract more female candidates?

It does come down to flexibility around working. It’s been fine for months. Businesses have been hiring. It hasn’t been an issue but it will be moving forward again in terms of flexibility around working hours and how that can fit in with people’s personal lives. A lot of businesses are quite savvy to that now.

As we start to going back to perhaps the work hours that we had pre-COVID, do you think some of the companies that are refusing to move or being obstinate in how they adopt or accept flexible work, those companies are going to be on the back foot and find themselves missing out on the best talent, male or female?

Absolutely. You’re right. It’s not just male or female. There are so many people that I speak to who have a better quality of life, a better relationship with their children. They’re not wasting hours and hours on commutes and still delivering great outputs. People has missed the interaction of being in the office. I do think that those firms that are open to a more hybrid way of working will ultimately attract better talent.

You can’t just keep throwing salary at roles to try and attract people. It has to be about more than that. That’s going to be a real driver moving forwards. The firms that I work with that have established a flexible approach are the ones that are able to attract a much wider range of people. They’re filling their roles quicker and getting better quality applicants.

At the end of the day, that means that they’re going to have a better level of service within the organization, whether they’re working with external clients or with internal clients. That flexible working and the policies that they might have around that, needs to be part of that sales document that you’re talking about, that the job ad ought to be.

If you put on the job ad out there that said, “A brilliant place to work related to career opportunity and great potential.” You then finish up by saying, “We have a flexible working policy of X, Y and Z,” people can apply and they know what they’re letting themselves in for. That’s a good point. You can be open about those working patterns and what your expectations are. That would work. That would help people make a decision as to whether it’s something they could accommodate in their lifestyle.

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies
Job Vacancies: Firms that are open to a more hybrid way of working will ultimately attract the better talent.

I know certainly in the past that women I’ve worked with, if the job ad doesn’t specify flexible working and there’s no mention of it on the company website, they don’t even bother to apply. They have made the assumption that it’s going to be tricky to get flexible working.

If it’s not on the job ad, when do you bring that up in the process. Too early on and it puts people off and then too late and you don’t want to waste a time if you can’t come to an agreement of how that could work moving forward. That’s when sometimes having a recruiter to help with that process does make a difference. When we’re applying for a job directly, there are heaps of questions that you want to answers to and you don’t always get them until quite later on. Whereas if you are working with a recruiter, you can fire 100 questions at us and we should hopefully know the answers. You’re absolutely right. If it’s not on there, it would put people off.

I’ve enjoyed talking to you, Nicola, about what we can do to try and address that disconnect between the recruiters who say that they don’t get enough women applying for roles, therefore, they can’t get the diverse shortlist and the women who are saying, “There aren’t enough opportunities available.” It seems like the opportunities are there. It’s just that they’re not appealing to the female talent that is out there in the marketplace.

You’ve hit the nail on the head there. There are lots of opportunities out there and a little bit of time and thoughts about how you might make that more appealing across both genders would help businesses and applicants.

Thank you so much for joining us. If people want to get in touch with you or to connect with you, how can they do that?

On LinkedIn, just Nicola Spooner. If you want to take a look at our website, it’s

Thank you so much, Nicola, for joining us. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. For our readers, thank you for joining me. I enjoyed our conversation. For more episodes on Closing the Gender Pay Gap, go to If this conversation has sparked a thought in your mind then please do book a call with me to have an opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work that I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talents so you close the gender pay gap. Email me at

Important Links:

About Nicola Spooner

CGP 10 | Job VacanciesNicola Spooner of Nicola Spooner Consulting is a recruitment expert specialising in recruiting in project professionals in the legal sector.

She helps law firms build their project teams, having built teams across the whole change and project management discipline, another male dominated sector.