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Although women represent a median 66% of internal employees at staffing firms, they are far less likely to hold leadership positions. According to new insights from Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), based on a survey in collaboration with the Women Business Collaborative, female representation is lagging in executive (50%), CEO (40%), founder (36%), and board (33%) positions. 

These leadership proportions were higher in small staffing companies and significantly lower in large companies. For example, more than half (51%) of the CEOs at small staffing firms were women, but women hold only 21% of CEO positions at large staffing firms. By industry, women were more likely to make up a larger percentage of CEO positions in firms providing healthcare (50%) and commercial (48%) staffing, but held a much smaller proportion in firms providing IT workers (30%). 

The survey also found that female leadership at the founder level strongly correlated with a higher percentage of female leaders — women accounted for 84% of CEOs at agencies with female founders, but only 17% of CEOs at firms with male founders. 

Female leaders foster greater employee satisfaction

Staffing firms with higher levels of female leadership also experienced higher employee satisfaction:

  • Female CEOs scored higher than male CEOs on meeting staff expectations (87% compared to 77%). 
  • Firms with a female CEO received an NPS of 83, while firms with a male CEO had a score of 47. (SIA notes that there could be other causes for this result.) 
  • Only 3% of respondents with female CEOs said they’ll likely be working with a different company within the next 12 months, while 27% of those with male CEOs said the same. 

Career support critical for women in staffing

Among survey respondents, the most commonly cited strategies for supporting women included fostering an inclusive workplace (75%), offering flexible work arrangements (72%), and providing professional development opportunities (66%). Notably, female CEOs were much more likely than male CEOs to offer formal mentoring and coaching (57% compared to 30%). 

When asked what would reduce the likelihood of leaving their current employer, most respondents overall noted better pay (74%), career advancement opportunities (52%), and leadership support (48%). However, women were 11% less likely to say they wanted more compensation — they showed more value for career advancement opportunities and leadership support. 

DEI becomes less of a priority

Lastly, while women seem to be greater advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) — they were more likely than men to agree that a greater focus on DEI would reduce turnover at their company (34% compared to 15%) — only 22% of respondents said improving DEI was one of their company’s top priorities. New business development (68%), finding/placing candidates in a tight market (53%), and economic uncertainty (53%) were far more pressing concerns. 

For more insights on gender parity in the staffing industry, see the full report