Gender inclusion is a priority area for One Acre Fund. As of this year, under half of our staff are women. Additionally, women comprise about 51% of our senior leadership team. Audrey Bolo, our Global Recruitment Lead, discusses why One Acre Fund is passionate about attracting female talent and how we invest in targeted recruitment efforts to hire female leaders.
What is your role at One Acre Fund, and what does a typical workday look like for you?
My role revolves around team management and leading strategic recruitment initiatives. I prefer to start my day by tackling at least one or two of my priorities. The rest of the day may include check-ins with my team or brainstorming sessions. Our team has a tradition of coffee chats; these chats have helped us connect beyond work, boosting team morale and performance.
As a Recruitment Lead, how do you and your team think about supporting gender representation in the workplace?
Gender is a dimension we can all relate to in one way or another; it’s part of a more extensive discussion around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). We continuously try to build awareness with our hiring teams by informing them about gender gaps, analyzing data, and conducting targeted sourcing to attract more female prospects. We use platforms that support our job writing process to help us create inclusive job descriptions. We include benefits that could be important to those with families or aspiring to start, and we encourage women to apply for specific roles. We also encourage our staff to tap into their networks to refer strong female candidates.
How easy/hard is it to attract female talent for leadership positions?
It depends on three driving factors: role, industry, and location. Some roles are less attractive to women, and we try to find out why and brainstorm how we can change perceptions. Some industries have historically been male-dominated and we try to focus on young professionals early in their careers who can later grow into strong talent. Finally, women often carry a lot of responsibility in domestic spaces, making work location a determining factor when choosing a role and so we try whenever possible to offer some flexibility.
Finding female talent is challenging, but I am glad that 40% of our new hires in the last two years have been women and that overall women make up 45% of our total staff. These numbers reflect the hiring strategies we have put in place, which are tracking in the right direction, even though it sometimes feels like we aren’t moving fast enough.
How has hiring more women benefited One Acre Fund? Why is gender diversity important?
I speak in general terms because not all women are the same — the way I see it, women bring a community feel to the team, making the team environment less authoritative and more collaborative, and this, in turn, influences teamwork. I believe that women help diversify businesses with new ideas and unique problem-solving skills. Women can think through multiple scenarios at the same time to try and make the best decision possible. In addition, women’s ability to regulate others under stress contributes to a resilient workforce. Moreover, most of the farmers we serve are female, so we need to hire more women to represent them and inspire rising female stars.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman in senior leadership?
During my time at One Acre Fund, I have not had many gender-related challenges as the human resource space is mainly female-dominated. Before joining the organization, I was in the logistics and shipping space. I often found myself outnumbered by my male counterparts. While this was initially daunting, I found my confidence by building a network of peers I trusted and by consistently doing the best I could with what I had. Over time, I learned how to speak up, and acknowledged that my ideas are as valuable as my male colleagues.
Describe your leadership style and how you lead others.
I am an empath. My leadership style is consultative but decisive. I believe in taking risks and experimenting. I enjoy brainstorming sessions with my team to discuss strategies and then putting them into action. I believe in leading from the front so I wouldn’t ask my team to do something I wouldn’t do myself. By prioritizing people and their needs, improved performance will follow.
What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
Being 25 reminds me of the quote, ‘marinate in your spices’. I would tell my younger self to sit with yourself and get to know yourself by exploring and understanding your thoughts, values, and beliefs. Be less concerned with pleasing other people and remember that everything life throws at you is an opportunity to learn. Lastly, learn to make peace with the fact that you may not be thriving in all the areas of your life, and that is ok — life is a journey; sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
You do not have to conform to things that don’t resonate with you or your truth. The world is constantly changing, and the future generation, more than ever, has the power of choice, especially with all the information and knowledge that is readily available. Pick things that work for you and let that define what your work experience looks like.
Friday night, in or out?
In! I love a Friday night where I relax and spend time with loved ones. Weekends are for the outdoors with my family and finishing a good book.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
I love anything chicken! I make a delicious roast chicken with sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables.
What’s a fun fact about you that your colleagues probably don't know?
I went to school in South Africa and after 11 years of playing field hockey, I joined the national team’s under-18 women’s training squad. Additionally, I am a certified career coach; which has given me perspective, awareness, and an opportunity to help others level up professionally.