The gender opportunity: embracing diversity in Malta

After many years working in recruitment and client meetings beyond counting, you start to notice certain trends in what hiring managers and candidates are struggling with; it’s a unique privilege to be able to see the honest needs and feedback of both sides. One such trend that has always stood out to us at Boston Link is that certain industries and sectors, particularly those requiring professional skills in Malta, continue to struggle attracting, retaining and promoting women for their workforce.

Although there has been much coverage over the years of a lack of women in certain educational streams, notably STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), there are nevertheless a huge number of highly driven, highly skilled, highly experienced women in the work force. When finding the right talent is a constant battle, missing out on a large portion of this female workforce will hamstring just about any modern company.

Yet despite this imperative to find great talent, the benefits of enhanced education which is seeing more women graduate locally every year, and a very public emphasis in Malta (and other European jurisdictions) on hiring more women for professional roles, it seems that executives and hiring managers remain unsatisfied. Both hiring and retention rates remain, based on the feedback we receive from clients and contacts, lower than their male equivalents in many professional service companies.

How can companies overcome this phenomenon and engage the talent in this part of the labour market? We believe that by thinking outside the box and having strong policies in place that support working parents, the same companies that are currently struggling to attract proper talent can become more attractive for women and in doing so solve their talent problem.

Not every woman chooses to be a working mother, and paternity benefits are also extremely important, but nevertheless maternity benefits come at the top of the list of things we have seen great female candidates looking for. Although the short term impact of such simple measures as extended maternity leave might appear costly, they could actually be a game changer. Internationally, several well-known brands have experienced impressive results by offering enhanced benefits and making a point of them when advertising, gathering hundreds more quality applicants, reducing acquisition costs and time to hire, and as a result experiencing improved profits. A good hiring manager will naturally recognise that the cost of a benefit needs to be compared to the potential cost-savings of increased retention and reduced acquisition costs.

We would also encourage companies to be more creative than the usual package of maternity benefits. We recently placed a working mother with a client specifically because the company was happy for her to travel to their overseas offices with her baby – they even arranged childcare for her whilst there. By being more aware of the demands of a modern working woman they were able to secure the best candidate available on the market. We believe that in small communities like ours, collective efforts from work places in the same locality in providing child care to working mothers and giving parents the flexibility to visit kids at nearby schools, given proximity to their offices, could have a lot of merit. Companies should also consider reduced working hours for men to care for children, encouraging more ‘flexi-time’ principles and even enabling remote working from home on certain days and hours. Each of these will help to encourage gender diversity, motivate staff, and help with hiring great talent. A diverse workforce with a good work-life balance will always lead to higher productivity and morale.

This is something we feel strongly about at Boston Link – and we’ve acted on those principles. We offer enhanced maternity and paternity leave in keeping with the more rigorous UK guidelines and we are very lucky to have several working parents on our small team. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits it provides, so we aren’t just dishing out advice we haven’t tried! Diversity, inclusion, and caring are not just things to put on our ethical ‘tick list’ as businesses. They are business-critical principles and areas in which we can innovate and reap the rewards, particularly within the Maltese market.

A final thought: are you writing job descriptions that only attract male applications? Studies have shown that certain keywords in job descriptions will attract men and deter women from applying. If you would like free advice on writing job descriptions our Managing Director Julian Perigo would be happy to talk to you.