Many companies are focused on recruiting women in leadership roles. Fortune magazine reported in May that the number of female CEOs “has hit a new high”, with 37 of the companies on 2020’s Fortune 500 list being led by female CEOs. But how can we keep this number on the rise?

Here are 5 tips on how to increase female leadership in your organization:

1. Set diversity goals for women in leadership roles

One way to recruit more women in leadership roles is to set a company-wide diversity goal. These can be either internal or external goals.

Here’s 1 example of an internal goal from Pinterest. According to Linkedin, in 2016 Pinterest set the goal of increasing the hiring rate for full-time engineering roles to 30% female. They challenged their engineering team to refer twice as many female candidates over a six week period, and the result was a 24% increase in the number of female referrals.

Employee referrals can be a powerful tool, but setting externally focused diversity goals can be too. Below is a list of 4 companies who have set goals specific to recruiting women in management roles:

  • Cognizant — aims to employ 100,000 women by the end of 2020.
  • Goldman Sachs — aims for 40% of its executives vice presidents to be women.
  • HP Inc. — plans to continue to increase the growing percentage of hiring from underrepresented communities — including women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
  • Intel — aims to double the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in senior roles by 2030.
  • Yum! Brands — plans to increase the representation of Black, Latinx, people of color, and women among its executive and management ranks, franchisees, and suppliers.

(Note: For examples of other company diversity goals, check out our blog 25+ Examples of Awesome Diversity Goals.) 

2. Eliminate words that are proven to turn off women  

Another way to focus on hiring more women in the C-suite is to remove masculine words from your job descriptions. You can make your job descriptions more gender-neutral by removing some of the top masculine words like:

  • aggressive
  • competitive
  • expert
  • lead
  • analyze

A best practice is to have 50-70% feminine language in your job description language to attract more women in management (or women in general). Here is an example of a masculine-leaning job in Ongig’s Text Analyzer:

remove masculine bias in job descriptions

(Pro-tip: You can also include language that says “we support more women and diversity in leadership” in your job postings (at a minimum) and have a plain English diversity statement that is inclusive to all groups.)

3. Offer flexibility in work schedules for women in management

Did you know that women make up only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 7% of top executives at Fortune 100 companies, and only 10% of top management positions in S&P 1500 companies, according to Fast Company and the Center for American Progress? There is quite a bit of data on how to solve gender inequality in the workplace, and many companies are asking how to increase female leadership.  Payscale recently reported that:

“In 2020, women earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by men.”

This Netflix documentary on diversity, Explained — Why Women Are Paid Less, breaks down the pay gap between women and men in the workplace. The biggest takeaway is that women who have children are at an even larger disadvantage when it comes to advancing to management roles, than women without kids and men. 

The pay gap continues to get smaller, but there are also other ways to attract more women in management roles. Companies that offer a flexible work schedule and other perks have become more desirable to women, especially women in the C-Suite. For some, flexible hours or on-site yoga classes can be just as powerful as being paid more.

Some top business owners were recently quoted in a story from the Miami Herald, Flexible workplace, schedule are key for working women. When Todd Oretsky, the co-founder of Pipeline Brickell, was asked

  1. How easy it is for women to have a fulfilling career and raise a family in today’s business world?
  2. What can bosses do to help working women?

He said:

“This issue has gotten better in the last two decades, but there is still much work left to do. I think bosses must be more aware during the hiring process for top positions and give opportunities to solid female candidates in the running. This issue, however, extends beyond gender because caretaker and “breadwinner” roles have changed quite a bit. More flexibility must be extended to workers in general. Taking care of an aging parent can be just as much of a challenge as raising a child. A good boss today must be empathetic and flexible. Empathy goes a long way in building morale, loyalty, and productivity. Plus, today’s technology truly allows executives to remain connected, even if they are in the stands watching a soccer game, or in the waiting room at the doctor’s office when children or other family members are ill.”

Here are a few companies offering flexibility and other perks for women in leadership roles (and other employees):

  • Bumble — encourages employees to work flexible schedules that meet their needs, including working mothers who can stay on track for career advancement.
  • Levi Strauss — offers eight weeks of paid time off per year to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
  • Pinterest — offers robust fertility benefits and surrogacy assistance, onsite classes (meditation, yoga, and massage). coaching on performance, growth, work relationships, or managing work responsibilities, and a 4 week, ‘Gradual Return to Work’ program when the 16-week Parental Leave for new moms comes to an end.

Other companies like Netflix, PayPal, and Docusign are also going above and beyond to recruit women leadership, and retain them. These companies and a list of others were featured in Glassdoor’s article during Women’s History Month in March.

4. Recruit internally for women in leadership roles

Chances are you already employ women in your company, so why not recruit women in leadership roles from within? Companies with leadership training programs, internal resource groups, and ERGs for women help prepare their female workforce for leadership roles.

There is a growing number of “homegrown” female executives, like Cheryl Grissom who has been with the same company for 33 years. Cheryl started with Hewlett Packard in 1987 in technical support and is now a Global Program Manager at HPE. She has taken advantage of internal women in management programs and mentors other women in the organization that are interested in leadership roles. Cheryl said:

“The many educational, professional development, and career growth opportunities provided to me through my career at HP/HPE have contributed to my success as a woman in business.  The most recent Top Talent Accelerate Program focused on the advancement of women, provided access to executive development programs at Columbia University and across the tech industry.  There is strong advocacy and support for promotion of women at HPE”

Here are a few examples of other companies that know how to promote female leadership according to a post by RippleMatch about 20 Companies Invested in the Success of Women at Work:

  • Abbott — “Many of Abbott’s women senior and executive employees began their careers at the company and rose through the ranks, benefiting from the company’s structured year-long mentorship program and its commitment to supporting women, particularly mothers, in achieving maximum potential at work.”
  • Facebook — “Facebook has long been a leader in Silicon Valley, and it’s also become a place for women to network and launch their careers. The Powerful Women in Tech group, which was first launched in 2015, hosts regular events to bring together women from all over the world for panel discussions, film screenings, and candid conversations about being a woman working in the male-dominated tech industry. Facebook also has a resource group for women to gain additional professional development opportunities.”
  • HubSpot — “The Women@HubSpot group runs regular programming to support professional development for women in tech, and employee benefits for family planning and paternal leave ensure that women do not have to choose between their career and motherhood.”
  • Kimberly-Clark — “The company has increased women in senior management by 66 percent in the past decade thanks to strong professional development opportunities, on-the-job leadership and management training, and flexible work schedules designed to meet the needs of women with various personal obligations.”
  • Pfizer — “A review panel of healthcare industry leaders selected Pfizer for the ACE award because of the company’s outstanding portfolio of programs offered through their internal global women’s network, all of which serve to unlock the full potential of their female employees. These programs and initiatives include sponsorship and development programs, robust mentorship, and visible support from senior executives.”

5. Target women’s job boards, organizations, and colleges

To recruit more women in management roles, you can go where women are looking for jobs. 3 top places to look are:

  • Colleges for women — Colleges with female students, especially those with graduate programs are a great place to recruit women in leadership roles.
  • Job boards for women — Diversity job boards like The Mom ProjectPowerToFly and Fairgodboss cater specifically to women. These job boards offer resources for companies who are interested in adding more women in the C-suite, or women in general to their workforce.
  • Women’s organizations that promote women in leadership — Diversity Best Practices has a list of Women’s Organizations You Need to Know, which is a great starting point for identifying groups that might have potential female leadership candidates.

Why I Wrote This

We’re passionate about eliminating biased job descriptions and we support the recruitment of more women in leadership roles. If you want to remove gender bias in your job descriptions, click our demo request button to learn more about Text Analyzer.


  1. Netflix Documentary: Explained — Why Women Are Paid Less
  2. Flexible workplace, schedule are key for working women (by the Miami Herald)
  3. The State of the Gender Pay Gap 2020 (by Payscale)
  4. 5 Proven Tactics Every Company Can Use to Get More Women in the C-suite (by Bruce Anderson)
  5. The Simple Way Pinterest is Becoming More Diverse: They Challenged Their Employees (by Paul Petrone)
  6. 8 Companies Getting Creative to Recruit + Retain Women (by Glassdoor)
  7. 20 Companies Invested in the Success of Women at Work (by Abbey Gingras)
  8. The Women’s Leadership Gap, Women’s Leadership by the Numbers (by Judith Warner, Nora Ellmann, and Diana Boesch)
  9. This is what it takes to get more women leaders in the workplace (by Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris)
  10. Overcoming Unseen Obstacles: How to Get More Women Into Leadership Positions (by Heide Abelli)
  11. 6 Ways to Increase Female Leadership in Your Company (by Christine M. Riordan)
  12. Women’s Organizations You Need to Know (by Diversity Best Practices)
  13. PowerToFly Diverse Women-Led Community
  14. Fairgodboss for Employers
  15. The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 hits an all-time record (by Emma Hinchcliffe)
  16. Cheryl Grissom Manager, HPE Pointnext Services and Solutions at Hewlett Packard Enterprise

by in Diversity and Inclusion