Ruth Sacks and Lisa Gee after presenting the Women in Recruitment Survey 2015

Presenting the findings

Dr Ruth Sacks and Lisa Gee presented the results of the Women in Recruitment Survey 2015 to an enthusiastic audience of recruitment professionals, men and women, in London and – via video link – Manchester on Thursday September 10th. The survey was commissioned by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), and explored why talented women leave recruitment, how they can be encouraged to stay and progress, and the services they’d like Women in Recruitment to provide.

What we asked

Over June and July, Westminster Business School ran two online surveys. The first asked people working in the recruitment industry to reflect on

  • their career to date
  • the company they work in
  • attitudes in the sector
  • their career prospects/ future.

The second asked employers about

  • attracting and retaining talent
  • flexible working opportunities and assessment practices
  • retention and reasons for leaving.

518 people, working across all recruitment sectors, from all sizes of recruitment company, responded to the questionnaires, providing a wealth of information and opinion. I also interviewed 11 senior industry figures who, between them, boasted over 200 years recruitment experience.

Career development opportunities and flexible working

Overall, there was cause for optimism in the way many recruitment companies are embracing employment practices that promote gender diversity, and are reaping the rewards of so doing. Those offering staff flexible working, opportunities for career development, mentoring programmes and responsive maternity/paternity arrangements are not only retaining their talented women, but also keeping them engaged and motivated – with significant tangible benefits to their businesses.

Those that are less enlightened? It’s clear that there are still pockets of crass discrimination, poor practice and doing-things-in-the-way-they’ve-always-been-done without reflecting on the impact of this. As one interviewee (male CEO) put it:

“I went to a talk recently and this guy was talking about reward structures and prizes and motivational techniques… and I think we are all thinking the same thing… At the end of his speech a woman in the audience turned around and said ‘do you have any women in your company? Because a lot of the motivational techniques are quite young and quite male’. One of the things we are doing as a business…it sounds strange…is trying to move away from incentives being alcohol. A lot of our incentives historically involve going to the pub and drinking a lot and, actually, why are we doing this?”

Meanwhile, an entrepreneurial survey respondent explained how she’d left a major recruitment company due to sexual discrimination:

“I did not take up any legal action but decided to take the situation on my own hands and go it alone and compete for their business once my restrictive clause had finished. They had to close their office after a year, so I feel pleased to have had the ‘last laugh’!”

While our respondents were clear about the factors that would keep them working either in their current companies or the recruitment sector as a whole:

  • flexible working
  • career development opportunities
  • more recognition for their contributions

two results, neither of them unique to the recruitment industry, felt particularly significant –

  • the extent to which many women still feel their progress is limited by their own lack of confidence. More than 40% of our respondents cited this as a factor inhibiting their career progression


  • how highly respondents rated their mentors. Two thirds scored their mentors 7/10 or higher when asked how how far their mentors had helped them progress their careers.

The research was sponsored by Barclays and Squire Patton Boggs.

3 tips for boosting confidence

If you are one of the many women who wants to increase their confidence so it matches up to your ambition, Principal Lecturer and Director of Business Development Dr Ruth Sacks offers the following tips:

  1. “Ask  your best friend and/or a colleague to tell you what you are good at and accept what they tell you. Say thank you: don’t deny the feedback.
  2. Keep a copy of every piece of positive feedback you receive and give positive feedback to others. The more feedback you give, the more you will receive.
  3. Be good to yourself. You work hard, give yourself a treat or reward.
And, finally, learn from the difficult stuff, accept it when it happens, and then move forward. It’s hard and no fun, but you will be stronger when the next challenge comes along.”

3 tips for finding a mentor

To find a mentor, Ruth recommends that people

  1. “Start by deciding why you want a mentor.
  2. Talk to others and ask them about their experiences of being or having a mentor. This will help you select a person who’s right for you
  3. Decide who you would like as your mentor and ask them or ask a person who knows both of you to make an introduction.”
She adds, “there will be someone who would like to be mentored by you – find out who and offer to mentor them!”

Confidence, mentoring and tips for men managing women – 8 must-reads

5 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Confidence – Peter Economy in Inc.

5 Ways Women Can Exude Confidence At Work – Christine Perkett in Forbes

Richard Branson’s Guide to Finding a Mentor – Entrepreneur

How To Find A Great Mentor — First, Don’t Ever Ask A Stranger  – Kathy Caprino in Forbes

10 Ways To Be A Better Mentor, From Those Who’ve Done It – T. A. Frank, The Drucker Institute

Women at work: a guide for men – Joanne Lipman in the Wall Street Journal

Groundbreaking New Way to Lead Female Employees – Jeff Haden in Inc.

More relevant links

Women in Recruitment

Family holds back female recruiters – Recruitment Grapevine on the Women in Recruitment Survey 2015 (the article is more thoughful than the headline might suggest).

Westminster Business School’s Women for the Board Programme

Women in Recruitment research infographic, showing most significant findings

Lisa Gee

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

University of Westminster
309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW
General enquiries: +44 (0)20 7911 5000
Course enquiries: +44 (0)20 7915 5511

The University of Westminster is a charity and a company limited by guarantee.
Registration number: 977818 England