Let’s get the legal part out of the way: In general, you can’t hire a woman just because she’s a she. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination based on religion, sex, age, national origin and race. And while the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification carves out exceptions to that rule, an employer must prove that hiring based on age or sex is essential to the success of the business -- which is unlikely. Meaning? Choosing someone because you want to check a box is not a sound defense.
The real question is why your current team lacks diversity. Usually it’s the result of impatience, implicit bias or a lack of planning. Too many companies focus on quickly filling a position with a candidate who can do the job, or subconsciously hire people who reflect the makeup of the team. They don’t spend the time to ensure that their search-and-recruitment network reaches the very best people for the job. That’s a real problem. You could have the greatest job opportunity in the world, but if you don’t have a pipeline in place that leads to the people who will help you best, your process is flawed. (You’re not the only one. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the tech industry has, on average, only half as many minority workers and three-quarters as many women as the overall job market.)
I’ve helped guide employment decisions for many companies, and the best approach I’ve found is to create a balanced hiring committee, whether you’re a scrappy startup or a booming business with endless resources. Assemble a team that includes people from different disciplines within your business, and add outside perspectives, too. Involve female employees in the hiring process. No female employees? Tap into your network for female friends or acquaintances. Or hire an outside consultant if your budget allows.
According to research from McKinsey, 74 percent of companies cite gender diversity as a top priority, but most fail to communicate that mission; expanding your hiring network will broadcast that goal, attracting better candidates and letting people know you’re an inclusive workplace.
The upside to a diverse workplace is real. McKinsey found that companies with gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have higher revenue than the industry standard, and racial and ethnic diversity lead to a 35 percent lift above the norm.
Related: The Case for Blind Hiring
In your case, Mark, your goal should not be to simply hire a woman; it’s to broaden your talent pool and search efforts to position your company among candidates as a more appealing and competitive opportunity. When that happens, you’ll recruit the type of people who fulfill your company’s needs -- not just those of a checklist. And that diversity part? It’ll take care of itself.