Soaring Numbers of Female Applicants
A well-known report commissioned by Hewlett Packard found that men were comfortable applying for a job when they met 60% of the role requirements, while women would only consider applying if they met 100% of them. Although this was an internal report, undertaken to establish the gender disparity in management positions, there is a broad acknowledgement among recruiters and human resource departments that these findings are consistent across a wide range of industries and employment levels.
Inspector Craig Shepherd from the Victoria Police’s Air Wing has seen firsthand the difference in how men and women approach promotion and recruitment – and so has made it a priority to bridge the gap and help all people compete on a level playing field. The result has been a considerable increase in female staff at Air Wing. Two years ago, Air Wing had one female Tactical Flight Officer (TFO) and no female pilots – now it has eight TFOs and one pilot.
“It comes down to understanding how men and women can vary when looking for a promotion or shift in career,” explained Inspector Shepherd.
“Our priority at Air Wing was simply making sure that everyone who wanted to work here felt that they had an equal opportunity to put in for the role; however my experience was that women often undervalued what they could bring to the role, and so didn’t even apply.”
To counteract that disparity, Inspector Shepherd said he simply “started a conversation”. When he heard that someone was considering applying for a role, he reached out and asked if they wanted to meet to chat about their application – and that open-door policy remains in place today.
“This isn’t an upskilling program or even some form of structured mentoring course, it’s simply helping people recognise what skills they could bring to a role. When you ask questions, you get
people to delve into their experiences and skills and make sure that they’re not selling themselves short. As you ask the right questions, you can see people begin to recognise their skills and
experience in a new light which gives them confidence to have a go.”
Inspector Shepherd worked at Water Police and Counter Terrorism prior to his appointment at Air Wing and sees great similarities across the divisions. Specialist areas need the best person for the job, with rigorous testing and interviews conducted by a team for transparency and authenticity.
“It’s recognising that the best person for the job may not have even applied,” he added. “If we can work through concerns and reduce self-doubt, then we are attracting more people to the role and have a greater number of quality applicants to choose from, whether they be male or female.”
While it is one thing to attract a more diverse group of people to apply for the job, it is a further step to create an environment where all people are welcome and want to remain in the work area. The team at Air Wing has put considerable time into creating a culture where people are treated fairly and respectfully, and interaction is encouraged to support each other.
“There would be no value in encouraging someone to apply for a role, and then they walk into an uncomfortable environment and want to leave,” said Inspector Shepherd. “We’ve changed our internal processes and developed a management team that wants to see every person start on a level playing field, and then feel positively supported both individually and as part of the team.”
There is no doubt that it has been a success. Along with a greater diversity in applicants, retention rates are strong at Air Wing and employee satisfaction is high. Inspector Shepherd’s “offer to chat” remains open; however there is no need to promote this as word-of-mouth has taken over.
“We are not out to recruit any particular person or gender over anyone else,” he said. “We want to attract the best people at Air Wing, and that begins by having an honest and positive chat.” While this approach appears very simple, it is an example of Victoria Police’s formal commitment to gender diversity and flexible work practices. Guided by its Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020, Victoria Police continues to drive cultural reform across the organisation to address gender inequalities and provide equal opportunities and support for those pursuing a career at Victoria Police.