Women In Recruitment: An Interview With Amy Golding

Opus Talent Solutions are a global, multi-award winning consultancy with offices in 8 locations worldwide. Their 250+ team are experts in both innovative tech and energy solutions. And one of just 3 companies to feature on the Virgin Fast-Track five years in a row.

Opus celebrate their eleventh birthday this week. They sent their first international invoice in 2015 and today, more than half their income’s generated from global markets.

Amy Golding’s the group CEO at Opus. She joined the business in 2016 and secured the top job the year after, becoming the youngest female CEO of a $100 million company. Since then, she’s won three national awards for her success in the role.

I caught up with Amy in Amsterdam ahead of International Women’s Day 2019 to talk about women in tech, in recruitment, and her experiences overcoming the kind of challenges women face in the workplace today.

What do you think about the number of women in senior positions in the tech industry?

I’m fearful that so many companies say they’re focussing on diversity. But when it comes to the need for tech skills, that trumps everything else. Those skills are in such short supply that they’ll take whoever they can, and look for diversity in other areas of their business.

85% of the tech talent pool is currently male. If you believe the hype, by 2030 80% of roles will be tech roles. So if we’re going to have any diversity at all come 2030, we need to make sure there is diversity in the tech talent pool in 2019.

So as well as recruiting for senior talent in tech and energy, we run tech training programmes to create developers from non-conventional backgrounds. You don’t need to come from Computer Science or even STEM to have an awesome tech career. In fact, a different perspective often helps.

What can be done to ensure there’s more women in senior positions in recruitment?

I think people get too impatient about diversity. They want an overnight fix. We would love to hire more female managers and directors. But the reality is you also need to focus on home grown talent.

One company hiring a brilliant senior woman from another company is great for them, but it doesn’t improve the industry. We have awesome opportunities for senior women but I’m under no illusions you have to start from the bottom up to really effect your overall company makeup.

Before I took over as CEO, applications from girls was at 30%. Now it’s 60%. And we’ve achieved almost 50/50 in our trainee intakes. It’s something we needed to focus on. Because it won’t just happen on its own.

It’s shouldn’t just be the most confident or loudest people that prosper. We’ve had to develop our own management style to encourage different personality types to come through in their own way – whether male or female.

And now we’re doing the same thing for our clients with our tech training programme. We basically took all the advice we’d give to them and did it ourselves. We are always client number one.

What are some of the challenges you feel you’ve overcome that perhaps a male wouldn’t have experienced?

To be honest, I experienced most of the bad sh*t way before I got into recruitment, when I was more junior. Including things I won’t mention before the watershed. Unfortunately I think a lot of bad behaviours in the workplace are a respect and seniority issue rather than an industry issue. That’s probably the case for guys too. I try and create an environment where people feel comfortable and inspired by each other. Senior positions are a reward for awesome performance, not an excuse to act like a d**k.

It’s demotivating looking up in an organisation and seeing no one who looks or acts like you.

Being a woman and not a man is one of a whole host of things that has that effect. I actually think recruitment is an industry where gender needn’t be a blocker. The best thing about recruitment – and the reason I chose to go into it – is because I loved the meritocracy of it. Not many career paths allow for that.

“If you’re better than your manager, you will earn more than your manager”.

Recruitment in general is a massive leveller. There’s little correlation at Opus between gender, age and background and what our employees achieve.

Amy Golding - Opus Talent Solutions (2)

Do you believe recruitment’s a more attractive career for men or women? 

It’s really hard to imagine recruitment not being an attractive career for women. If people think that, it doesn’t make sense to me (given what I do).

When people are starting out they imagine the intensity of their first few years going on forever (or getting worse) and can’t imagine it can be sustainable long term. The reality is, as you progress the job changes. It’s still challenging, but in a different way. Managing a team of ten for example. It doesn’t take the stress you feel as an individual consultant and duplicate it by ten. In a lot of ways it takes that stress and diffuses it across ten potential outcomes.

Recruitment’s so entrepreneurial. In a lot of careers there’s only one route to the top and the top looks one way. There’s so many options for the different paths you can take.

Anyone that hasn’t figured that out yet is getting it wrong. Just like in technology, I feel that sometimes perception gets in the way of reality in recruitment and that’s more of a blocker for diversity than anything else.

How can the industry be better at retaining its female talent?

The industry needs to get better at retaining talent full stop. Make sure you’re offering better career options and that people know they can suggest improvements or change that isn’t just applicable to women.

It’s about inspiring people and showing them that the work they’re putting in now will be worthwhile in the future. Lots of companies keep people in a box and keep them away from information. I believe that people need to feel inspired by what they could achieve, not cut off from the knowledge of what’s going on behind the curtain!

How can we address the gender imbalance in the recruitment industry?

I’m not convinced gender balance in Recruitment is worse than other industries. It’s perception and messaging keeping girls out of the industry, not reality.

We are passionate about improving diversity in the the pool as a whole. Not only do we try and hire holistically for ourselves, we shape our clients hiring as well. If women aren’t in the pool in the first place, there’s very little you can do to advance their careers. So trying to change things at the bottom end for our clients and for us is an equal priority.

Would you say certain recruitment markets are easier for particular genders?

No. If we believe that hype we’re reinforcing the problem.

The industry is changing, more innovation, technology and diversity of solutions – this means more diverse career paths – do you think this will mean there’s more opportunity for women?

There’ll be more opportunities for everyone. We’re 100% focused on innovation. Particularly having such a presence in the tech and energy markets.

A lot of traditional jobs are getting lost. But the new roles coming through do level the playing field. And of course gender is one of those factors.

Amy Golding - Opus Talent Solutions (1)

What are your thoughts on the pay gap in recruitment? Does the meritocratic nature of the work make an impact?

Recruitment’s an industry where it should be transparent what people earn. The beauty of it is you can probably guess what anyone’s earning based on the numbers on the board.

There are pay gaps in recruitment. But fundamentally, you’re paid directly in line with your success which is refreshing. The gender pay gap comes because there are currently more senior men in the industry. Aggregate that total and men are probably earning more overall.

What are your top tips for women starting out in recruitment?

My tips for anyone starting out in any job, no matter what your career or gender, is to put your all into everything. Every conversation, every interaction. Look at it as an opportunity.

This industry allows you to be creative, entrepreneurial. Don’t wait for anyone to bring it to you. Create your best role.

Our last CEO came from a recruitment background and I came from a business background. Our next CEO could be our top sales person. Or our best manager. Or they could come from one of our non-sales functions. All routes within a company should lead to the top spot. And it’s about letting everyone know that’s the case.

The job’s only as boring as you make it. The barriers are ones you put in place.

Looking back, if you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

I’d learn to code. Or get into tech and renewable energy earlier.

Actually I’d have realised earlier that tech wasn’t for geeks.


At the time of writing, Opus have 4 live roles on Hunted and are hiring Recruitment Consultants in:

New York

Amsterdam

Bristol

Check out Opus Talent Solution’s Hunted profile to see what it’s like working with Amy and her team. 

And a massive thank you to Amy for her time and insight in putting this piece together.