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The Gender Gap at WorkThe Gender Gap at Work

The gender gap is not news. Politicians argue about the merits of the Paycheck Fairness Act which would help secure equal pay for equal work for all Americans. This is commonly referred to as equal pay for equal work. In a previous post we discussed the lack of women on the Board of Directors, despite data showing that companies with women on the board perform better in terms of ROI and other factors.

Does the gender gap exist? McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, conducted an in-depth survey of more than 1,200 managers at more than 230 companies. The survey was based on the findings of their 20-page report published in 2013.

“To ensure that corporate culture supports—not hinders—the ability of women to reach top management, companies must address mind-sets and develop a more inclusive, holistic diversity agenda.” ~ McKinsey Global Survey Report

The highlights of the McKinsey survey results are as follows.

  • Women’s career ambitions exceed those of their male peers. The statement “I have a strong desire to advance to the next level in my organization,” was agreed to by 51% of women and 44% of male respondents. And yet, 69% of women feel they will succeed in reaching top-management position, compared to 83% of their male peers.
  • Women’s confidence to reach top management depends more on collective corporate culture than on individual factors. Eighty-one percent of women who were confident they could succeed at their company strongly agreed with the statement, “I am willing to sacrifice part of my personal life to reach top management.”  The women who were confident they would succeed responded differently than the women who were not confident of their success. Of those who felt confident that they would succeed at their company the statement, “I find it easy to promote myself and communicate my ambitions upward,” was agreed to by 63% versus 42% of the women who were not confident.
  • Men are much less aware than women of the challenges female employees face at work. While three-quarters of men agree that diverse leadership teams with significant numbers of women generate better company performance, fewer recognize the corporate challenges that women face. Just 19 percent of male respondents strongly agree that reaching top management is harder for women. Among women, 63% strong agree with the statement, “Even with equal skills and qualifications, women have much more difficulty reaching top-management positions.”
  • At all levels, the views on leadership ability diverge by gender. The statement, “Women can lead just as effectively as men” shows a significant variance. Among mid-level managers 76% women strongly agree with the statement versus 41% of men. Among senior managers 84% of women agree versus 43% of men. In the C-suite, 77% of women agree with the statement compared to 50% of men.
  • Among male executives, skepticism about gender-diversity issues still lingers. While both men and women see value in gender-diversity initiatives (95% of women and 84% of men) more than half of men agree with the statement, “Having too many gender-diversity measures or initiatives to promote women leaders is unfair to men.”

McKinsey & Company have two key suggestions to narrow this gender gap. Their report states:

Increase male sponsorship. One specific way to include more men while generating more support is through sponsorship. Professional women tend to lack effective sponsors who advocate for them and make sure they have access to all possible opportunities— a disadvantage that could lead to more women dropping out of the pipeline before they reach top management. Therefore, including more men not only as mentors but also as true sponsors could provide more support for women and engage more men on the diversity agenda.

Diversify performance models. Another way companies can make diversity programs more inclusive is by evolving performance and leadership models so they are more gender neutral (so they offset the negative impact of maternity leave and work flexibility on career tracks). They can also use evaluation criteria that value a wide range of leadership habits and techniques. Beyond the implementation of specific measures to recruit, retain, promote, and develop women, companies need to create a corporate culture that welcomes various leadership styles.

Source: “Moving mind-sets on gender diversity: McKinsey Global Survey results,” Jan. 2014