Every once in a while the right thing to do and the thing you want to do come together. They call it a “best of both worlds” or a “win-win” situation. Driven by scarcity of leadership resources and recognition of the power that comes from having diverse voices and experiences lead the way, we have reached such a moment for the staffing, recruiting and workforce solutions industry. The quickly changing talent industry is ripe for fully embracing one of its most-overlooked and greatest resources: women.

The staffing industry is majority women (65% and then some). That puts it in prime position to help women rise to the senior leadership ranks they have struggled to reach before. The talent is there. Simply by investing in leadership programming, tools, and networks, businesses across the recruitment and workforce solutions industry will begin to see their own leadership candidate pools grow and their businesses improve. Here’s why:

 1. Growth opportunities a primary reason talent stays

Only 11% of organizations have a strong leadership bench. That’s what we in the statistics world call “not good!” When the supply of leadership talent is so scarce, your best leaders and leadership prospects have opportunities with other firms. In 2021, nearly 22% of employees who left their jobs cited lack of growth opportunities as their top reason for leaving.

Investing in leadership development at all career stages for women is an excellent way to provide the care and commitment to a group that has historically been underrepresented in leadership ranks. It shows and provides focused effort to develop and retain great talent. And great talent, those are the people who want to learn, do more, and create more for the business. Win-win once again. 

2. Gender diverse leadership drives business results

Researchers from McKinsey & Co. discovered something startling a few years ago. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile for gender diversity. Essentially, organizations that fail to invest in leadership development for women are leaving money on the table! 

3. Gender inequity hurts engagement and your bottom line!

According to recent data from Staffing Industry Analysts, women make up 66% of the internal workforce at the average staffing firm and yet, in larger firms, they only hold 18% of the owner/CEO roles. We see similar trends in the rest of the recruiting and workforce solutions industry. When inequity goes unaddressed or unacknowledged, engagement, productivity, and (ultimately) profitability will suffer. The longer the imbalance stays, the greater the risk is to any talent-focused business.  

So where should a recruitment and workforce solutions business begin as it looks to cultivate and support more women leaders? Here is some advice from the team at ClearEdge Rising, a leadership incubator for women in the recruiting and workforce solutions industry, on the must-haves for growth programs. 

Make it a journey. 

Learning is a journey. A two- or three-day leadership class might feel good, but is unlikely to sustainably develop your team’s leadership skills. Any form of skill development needs repetition, reinforcement, and practice if the learner is to have any hope of achieving sustainable growth. This can only happen over time with regular, consistent support and coaching. 

Rather than investing in one and done training and programs, look for solutions that create a starting point and a destination with lots of growth and milestone achievements along the way. Getting to a leadership role shouldn’t be quick or easy, but, like most journeys, it should have rewards. 


Consider the role of community. 

Human beings are community driven. Our best lives are lived together. Growth for anyone happens when it is supported by an inspiring, empathetic, and engaging group of participants.  Not only does a community provide a source of encouragement and motivation, it also builds powerful networks for participants outside their normal working lives. Cultivating and nurturing the community that can support women leaders over the duration is key to the success and durability of the program. 


Prioritize psychological safety.

Real growth often involves vulnerability. Effective leadership development is no different. Make sure that your program creates an environment where participants have the opportunity to be open about challenges or questions without risk of rejection, punishment, humiliation, or shame. 

With these three elements in place (a growth-filled learning journey, a community of support, and a safe place to grow), a leadership development program has the core elements needed to give women a chance to learn, thrive and rise. Look for programs that hit these targets and, if you want to learn more about how ClearEdge Rising is working to improve gender equity in recruiting and workforce solutions, send us an email at rising@meetclearedge.com