Talent is more essential than ever if companies want to succeed in the competitive world market. And many will have to close the gender gap in order to attract and retain the kind of talent that provides that edge.
Industries can’t be on the cutting edge of development and customer reach without being inclusionary in their talent pool. Those that don’t close the gender gap, especially in leadership positions, will ultimately see parochial outcomes to their parochial paradigms. They simply can’t afford to take a dismissive posture to the creative talent and unique perspective of women.
According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, fewer than 50% of leaders across industries are women. That percentage takes a nosedive in industries like energy, mining and manufacturing.
Although the gap is closing worldwide for industries like health and education, it is worth noting that female-dominated industries (health, education, non-profit) historically pay less. And when women enter a profession in large numbers, their pay decreases relative to the pay in other industries.
According to a report by PayScale, a cloud compensation software company, the persistence of the gender gap may come down to two factors:
- fewer women in leadership
- breaks in employment due to primary caretaking responsibilities
While women enter the workforce at slightly higher rates than men, men advance further in leadership roles. That leadership gap widens for women as they advance in their careers. By mid-career, 60% of women are still in contributor roles, while 52% of men move into management. And men are 70% more likely to end up in VP or C-suite roles mid-career, and 142% more likely to be in leadership late in their careers.
Interestingly, women who do advance to executive positions may experience a wider pay gap than they did in their contributor roles – 98.3% vs. 94.4%.
The role of extended employment gaps cannot be overstated. Women are five times more likely than men to take a leave for child rearing and are also the more likely gender to be caregivers to aging family members. If that employment gap is over one year, the wage penalty averages 7.3%.
So what can be done to close the gender gap, especially within industries that have been historically male-dominated and may not be inclined to change?
Below are 9 points to consider if you are seeking change or are in a position to create it:
- Get real about gender gap.
It is imperative that leadership discuss the issue of gender gap, both as a global issue and (especially) as a company-wide issue. Leadership sets the tone and needs to bravely and directly stay abreast of inequalities and how to remedy them.
- Audit your pay practices.
Obviously, you won’t be inclined to do this if you aren’t determined to close the gender gap in your company or organization. Assuming you are, then auditing your practices across the board is an important step. That means analyzing differences from job-to-job, as well as between departments, functions, managers and locations.
- Develop a women’s talent strategy.
The objective here is to combat conscious and unconscious bias. Start by establishing a common definition of leadership and working from there. Assess your current leadership programs and engage high-performing women at all levels.
- Create a roadmap for women to rise.
Restructure, if necessary, in order to have a strong internal pipeline for promoting women. And include a diversified mentorship program to help them get there.
- Make sure your evaluation system is equal and fair.
Men’s performance tends to be overestimated, while women tends to be undervalued. Women also have to back up their promotions with proven accomplishments, while men are commonly promoted on the basis of perceived potential.
Do you recognize any of these biases in your company practice? Think of Lady Justice when you are hiring and promoting and keep your practices gender-blind.
- Look for opportunities to diversify in leadership roles.
Diversifying the creative talent and perspective in your leadership team will send a favorable message to talent-for-hire and talent-to-keep. Have you been passing up opportunities to bring women into your leadership? Are you guilty of assuming that only men can do the job?
- Focus on the family.
Humans aren’t going to stop reproducing anytime soon, and children aren’t going to raise themselves. It is in everyone’s best interest, then, to get creative and determined in closing the gender gap that is widened due to family-care breaks in employment.
By not providing good paternal-leave benefits for fathers, the implied message is that women will always be the caregivers, and their careers don’t really matter. What a shame, especially when you consider the plethora of executive skills that motherhood makes admissible on a resume!
- Include everyone in the mission.
Employees respond enthusiastically and productively to being included in a company’s goals and decision-making.
Share with your employees what you are doing and why it is important. When they see that you value fair and equal practices, their confidence and loyalty will increase. You will also likely see a spark of determination in those who have silenced their leadership ambitions out of a sense of futility.
- Create and support a unified front.
It is essential that both women and men embrace and promote a company-wide mission of diversity and inclusion.
Closing the gender gap, especially in leadership positions, has financial and competitive advantages across industries worldwide. Some aspects will be more complex than others, but a foundation of mindfulness about existing biases will open the channels to insight and solutions.
If you need help closing the gender gap in your management team, we can help. Reach out to us here.