How startups can attract and retain female talent

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Organisational psychologist, Pavneet Khurana, offers practical solutions for businesses.

Watch time: 5 minutes:

  • A gender balanced team is better for business

  • Use data, brand and culture to attract talent

  • Focus on access to women, pay gaps and exclusion to redress the gender balance

To mark International Women’s Day 2021 we asked Pavneet Khurana, Organisational Psychologist, People and Culture Partner at Unleashed, for advice on how growing businesses can make the most of female talent.

In this video Khurana lays out how to attract and retain female talent, and the benefits of having a gender balanced team.




Just 19% of the UK workforce at tech companies are women, according to data compiled by Tech Nation. This compares to 49% of the general UK workforce. In addition, less than a quarter (22%) of UK tech directors are women.

An analysis of London’s startups by recruitment firm Otta recently found that 771 were founded by men and 92 by women. There are almost more founders named Ben, James, David, Tom or Daniel (75 total), then there are women tech founders. 

Gender disparity and inequality remains in the startup community despite progress in recent years. To help redress the balance there are three key areas that need to be tackled, says Khurana. 


The first is improving access to women. “There are still huge barriers for women in traditionally male roles such as engineering, and even leadership. We hear time and time again that it’s so hard to recruit because there's not enough women in the talent pool or industry. If that’s the case you’re not looking hard enough. Secondly, question why that is and how you can solve the problem from the source?”

“More and more women are entering STEM careers, but the numbers are still really low. Consider what can you do as a business to encourage more girls and women to enter these careers in the first place.”

Pay gap

The gender pay gap in the UK is 15.5% compared to 28% for women in tech and that only includes companies that report their pay data. Creating pathways for more women in leadership roles is essential, says Khurana. “Develop junior talent into leaders. Hire women into leadership positions. Use executive search firms or recruitment partners and be very clear that you always need to see gender diverse shortlists – that an all-male candidate shortlist for any role is unacceptable. You need a minimum number of women to bring into interview. If you make this part of your success criteria for your recruitment partners, you'll see the benefits quite quickly.”


A survey from analytics platform Culture Amp revealed the majority of women in the workforce feel excluded from decision-making, do not feel comfortable expressing their opinions, and do not feel as though they can succeed. 

“That has severe detrimental effects on both physical and mental health and for your company. This results in low productivity, low output and high attrition,” Khurana explains. “To solve that it’s all about culture. Create a working environment that enables all people to belong and to feel heard. It will be worth it.”

International Women's Day 2021


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