What Is It Really Like To Be A Woman Working In Recruitment?

This International Women’s Day, we sat down with three of our female recruiters, Jess, Alyesha, and Leilah to delve into their thoughts on what it’s like to be a woman working in recruitment and technology. Here’s what they have to say!

How long have you worked in recruitment for?

Jess: 8 months


Alyesha: 3.5 years – time really does fly!


Leilah: Around 3 years


What attracted you to the job? 


Jess: Target driven environment working with people?


Alyesha: A friend I worked with at Selfridges with encouraged me into it as a route after graduating, as she’d seen how much I enjoyed earning commission on the sales floor! I’m glad she did – I didn’t even know it existed as an industry before.


Leilah: It’s always been a very personal position for me, it’s an industry where I’ve found I can excel using my personality. That was probably the main thing that attracted me to this industry; I could do well in a job by just being myself.


Do you feel like it’s a male-dominated industry?


Jess: I don’t feel I have been in the industry long enough to know; however, I feel our office has historically been male-dominated.


Alyesha: Definitely, especially in comparison to previous industries I’ve worked in, but most industries are!


Leilah: I think it is male-dominated, but I think recruitment, in particular, is quite nuanced.

Recruitment is a great entry point for women. It’s an industry where character and empathy can bring about opportunities; advancement and earning potential is merit-based, which leaves less opportunity for pay inequality or discrimination.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. Like most industries nowadays there is a shortage of women in positions of leadership and influence. This may seem insignificant, and it goes without saying that many women will excel regardless of female role models, but the impact of having women in positions of power is substantial.


If yes, have you ever come across obstacles in your work because of this?


Alyesha:   Unfortunately, I came across a few with a past company, fortunately, those obstacles became great longer-term life lessons. 


“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t feel like you can’t speak up because you’re not in the boy’s club.”


What would you say to girls wanting to enter into recruitment, but may be put off by the often publicised ‘bro culture’? 


Jess: I find I have things in common with the majority of my colleagues regardless of gender!


Alyesha: The great thing about recruitment is it gives you the chance to progress at a rate that is completely relative to your input, regardless of age, gender, or background.

Don’t be put off by the external image, as with any industry there are good and bad companies. Always look out for signs of a toxic culture, and don’t feel the need to fit into one as you’re new to the industry. Put yourself in the driving seat and find a place that represents you, you need to take your true self to the office, and anywhere that makes you feel otherwise probably won’t allow you to grow. Look for transparency and honesty, reach out to females working there already, and always trust your gut.


Leilah: I’d say that bro culture can be unavoidable. But it doesn’t have to matter. This is a hard industry regardless of gender. You have to be resilient, you have to be patient, and you have to be able to connect with people. This can be a hard mix and a lot of people don’t manage to make it work.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t feel like you can’t speak up because you’re not in the boy’s club. More than that though, I’d remind them that there are women in this industry who have been where you are. Reach out to them. A lot of the doubts they’ve had have been experienced and overcome by women who came before. There’s more to recruitment than bro culture.


What is it like working across two male-dominated industries – from recruitment to technology? 


Jess: We always keep diversity a top priority, however, there can be certain reoccurring topics within the office that maybe not all females can get involved in.


Alyesha:  I thoroughly enjoy working in recruitment and technology, and specifically right at the cutting edge of machine learning development. I speak to brilliant people every day, both male and female. I’m very aware of the issues the industry faces, so far, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with companies that have outstanding company cultures and recruit diversely. I’ve placed some inspiring women who are highly recognized for their scientific contributions to the field, many becoming speakers for their companies, and one even being voted in Forbes 30 under 30 in science!


Leilah: The technical field, in my opinion, is a lot more male-dominated than recruitment from what I’ve seen. I think I feel a responsibility to endeavour to find great opportunities for women more proactively. It might be a bit of personal bias toward my own gender, but I feel like we’re definitely the underdogs when it comes to tech.


“Women in Data Science face obstacles like under-representation in their University courses… though that is changing.”


What obstacles do you think women in Data Science face?


Jess: Some women may feel uncomfortable working in a male-dominated environment, they may also come across some prejudice and bias in hiring due to women needing time off for maternity etc. Nevertheless, I feel most businesses are moving towards equality within the workplace.


Alyesha: I think women in Data Science face many obstacles including massive under-representation in their university courses, though that is changing thankfully. Also, I think it can sometimes be hugely detrimental when a media firestorm starts as it can often turn into an; ‘us against them’ type of debate. When things become so angry and vocal, some of the would-be supportive voices don’t want to get involved and you’re often left with the extreme ends of the spectrum causing more harm than good. There’s a certain psychologist who is a current great example of how to alienate people and cause an “us against them” mentality that gets lost in trying to disprove one another on trivial matters instead of discussing the deep-rooted cause of issues.


Leilah: This is a booming field, and therefore it’s a popular field. People are trying to get into data science now more than ever. It’s hugely valuable commercially as nearly every industry relies on data in this information age. Therefore, the playing field is growing. I don’t have a source on this, but I once read that men tend to be more confident than competent and women tend to be the reverse. I’d advise women who want to explore this field to be proactive in selling themselves and be confident in their own abilities.


What can be done to attract more women/girls into tech?


Jess: There are loads of conferences and meet-ups happening for women and showcasing the success of women in tech.


Alyesha: More education and positive actions in school from a very young age, in my opinion, the UK has a lot of catching up to do on this. Speaking to girls and women in a more encouraging way and being aware of language that is used differently to girls and boys at this age, and beyond.


Leilah: It has to be proactive. Whether that’s at the academic level or a professional level, companies and schools need to prioritise women’s advancement and demonstrate that it is a priority if they want to attract women into their business.


What women have inspired you in your career?


Alyesha: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi – specifically her ‘We Should All Be Feminists speech’. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In movement encouraged me to get involved in a local circle, bell hooks during my studies. My politics teacher Elaine Mulroy. Recently a friend of a friend, Gina Martin has just changed the law which is a great example of how cooperating with the system and following process can influence change – something I was very sceptical of before. And, of course, the wonderful, hard-working females in my family!


Leilah: Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, and my mother off the top of my head. But to be honest, any woman who takes the time to stand up for other women is an inspiration.


“We need to make a conscious effort to ensure equality is put in place for gender, disabilities, race and culture.”


Can you think of any great projects women in Data Science are working on right now? 


Alyesha: So many! A couple come to mind; Rana AlKalouiby & Taniya Mishra at Affectiva who are bringing emotional AI to vehicles to drastically improve road safety. Ann Bethke at Intel who leads a Social Good lab (Check her out on the Women in AI podcast very recently).


Leilah: Fei-Fei Li, Co-Director of the Stanford AI Institute, and the Stanford Vision and Learning Lab is making huge strides in Machine Learning and Computer Vision. She is also Chairperson of AI4ALL a non-profit that focuses on diversity in AI education.


This IWD theme is #BalanceforBetter – what does that mean to you? 


Jess: The world making a conscious effort to ensure equality is put in place for gender, disabilities, race and culture.


Alyesha: Balance for better means collaboration and equality, moving away from ‘us against them’. I think it’s incredibly important to encourage conversations between men and women in a progressive and logical way, trying to remove the emotions that can cause loggerheads and spending the energy speaking to people that are open to listening rather than trying to change every single person who disagrees with you.

Also, understanding that a balance of male and female characteristics and energies is better for everyone, and those male and female characteristics can vary person-to-person no matter what gender. We need to let men know that it’s good to recognize and have qualities that are known as stereotypically ‘female’ and vice-versa.   


Leilah: To me it means levelling the playing field, and that sounds pretty exciting.


Happy International Women’s Day to our wonderful Women In Recruitment!


International Womens day 2019 - women in recruitment
L-R Jess, Leilah, Alyesha

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