Women & Power Issue

Good help wanted

One of the biggest challenges for the leaders on our Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts list? Filling open positions.

IT’S AN ILLUSION that it’s a buyers’ market for employers right now. Despite the state’s persistent 7 percent unemployment rate, many of the female executives in our survey still say one of their largest challenges is hiring and keeping the right employees. “It’s a common misconception that higher unemployment rates lead to more top talent being available,” says Annie Stevens, managing partner at ClearRock (Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts honorable mention), a Boston-based executive outplacement firm. “Top talent is the last to be impacted; if they are, they are scooped up quickly. It’s actually harder to find talent in times of high unemployment, especially since most recruiters are weeding through that many more resumes.” 

According to a 2013 report by ManpowerGroup, 39 percent of US employers surveyed said they are having difficulty filling jobs due to a lack of suitable applicants.

“What you’re seeing out there is the talent shortage,” says Nancy J. Martini, president and CEO of PI Worldwide (No. 28), a workforce analytics firm in Wellesley. “It’s pretty staggering. There’s roughly a 20 percent gap between the number of managers [needed] and the talent pool available.”


Many of our top female leaders say the main hiring challenge is locating employees with the right specialized technical skills. “For us, it’s finding psychometricians,” says Martini. “In the Boston area, there may or may not be schools that provide those degrees, so now you’ve got relocation, which is costly, the high cost of living, and whether they like snow. The more specific and more senior the role, the smaller the pool.”

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Barbara Osband, president and CEO of Cambridge Biomedical (No. 78) in Boston, says she sees fewer qualified lab workers here ever since Northeastern’s program training medical technologists shut down. But Boston’s comparatively high concentration of biotech, pharmaceutical, and academia professionals can be a mixed blessing. “The difficulty,” she says, “is we’re all vying for the same group of people.” 

A sector under fire can also limit the applicant pool. Janice P. Guy, president and CEO of P3I (No. 30), a defense contractor in Hopkinton, says that sequestration, government shutdowns, and budget uncertainties leave her employees wondering “why they should work in the defense industry” at all. Meanwhile, Guy says she has to ask them “to do more for less.”

For Allison P. Iantosca, partner at F.H. Perry Builder (No. 57), a Hopkinton home construction firm, the most crucial factor is finding someone who fits into her corporate culture. “I need people to have an entrepreneurial spirit, strength of character, and humility,” she says. “I’m not looking for perfection, but someone who understands who they are. There’s a constant demand for self-analysis and self-reflection here. You have to want to be part of that culture.”

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