Why representation is critical in recruitment

Ever since I was a little girl, I had my career mapped out for me. I would often hear my family say, “She’ll be a doctor, a dentist, surely a career in finance or even law?”

“But why these careers Dad?”

“Because Beta (Gujarati word for darling), any other career and you’ll have to work twice as hard to prove your worth.”

So, you can only imagine my dad’s reaction when I said I was going to try my hand at sales! Truth be known, I’m still not convinced he knows exactly what I do, but I do know he is super proud of me.

I started working when I was 15, nothing to do with building a career, simply a means to an end to support my family. But I wonder, was my dad right? Has the colour of my skin dictated the direction of my career? Have I subconsciously only applied for roles that feel safer, well within my comfort zone, and apparent reach? Instead of pushing for a promotion, has the easier option been to leave, instead of facing an uphill battle to “prove my worth”?

A recent study commissioned by the Westminster Business School, by Women in Recruitment, reinforced that thinking, that women tend to leave the industry instead of trying to apply for leadership roles. Their survey found the challenges that women face within recruitment, and uncovered that:

“There is a lack of representation of role models within the industry: Only 27 percent of respondents said they had a female role model in the workplace.” That percentage drops even further when you include Indian Female role models in leadership posts. I have been in the industry for almost 2 decades, and I can only name a small handful of Indian female leaders at Board Level. Has this too, subconsciously, impacted my career, my growth, my development? Have I been hesitant in stepping outside my comfort zone in fear of being the “first” to offer that representation? The fear of ‘what if I get it wrong?’

The truth is, by not, how can I inspire others to do the same? As new mum to a beautiful little girl, I want to reset what a role model from an Indian culture could look like. I want her to know she can do anything that is outside of the typical roles that my parents’ generation have expected of me. I want her to have confidence in herself and her abilities, irrespective of ethnicity, skin colour, or socio-economic background, and that is the example I choose to set for her.

The Future at MLC Partners

The world is changing, and more employers are now recognising the need for a more diverse workforce, but there is so much more work to be done.

At MLC Partners, at our very core we represent candidates and clients who themselves are diverse – in every sense of the word – and this is reflected in the team we have at MLC – and to champion growth we need diversity of thought. This doesn’t come from a team who all share the same backgrounds and experiences, but from the value our different ideas and perspectives can bring to the business. 

Representation at every level & Leading from the front

It sounds naïve to write “appoint a more diverse workforce at every level” but research shows by NOT, productivity and profitability is lower, and companies find it harder to retain staff due to the lack of representation, particularly at the senior level.

I am incredibly fortunate; MLC Partners has always been incredibly supportive of my career aspirations and goals. Our leadership team now comprises of 67% female, and 33% come from an ethnic background. As for the wider business, 14.2% of our workforce identify as disabled, 57% identify as women and 7.1% are neurodiverse.

Educate, Educate, Educate

We should celebrate and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and with that in mind we have recently partnered with Matt Ashby-Cooper – from Ashby-Cooper Leadership to bring these typically taboo subjects to the forefront of our conversations. We explore these unconscious biases and have developed a strategic training programme to manage and tackle these discussions.

Take Risks

It is always uncomfortable talking about subjects that are typically taboo, but these conversations are vital to deliver change within the industry. Unless I talk about Indian women in recruitment, I close the door for those looking for inspiration or someone to look up to. If I don’t talk about diversity and equity, I close the door to conversations that encourage growth within the workplace. It is ok to be uncomfortable, however it is far more rewarding to lead those conversations to make a real difference, particularly for those looking for that representation within the industry.