This article is part of our ‘Retain’ to ‘Recognise’ series sharing the most significant insights from the last 3 annual Sat Nav to Success research surveys to provide you with new clarity on what matters most and can make the most difference in securing the benefits of gender balance in roles, recognition, support and rewards.
I’m deeply concerned that the inclusion imperative for organisations’ success, particularly through and beyond Covid-19, will get pushed down the agenda, or meet even greater barriers to being understood as a fundamental driver of sustainable success, and employee engagement and well-being.
This is why I now want to make these insights and their implications for D&I strategy available, which will deliver immediate, measurable and sustainable success available.
This article will walk you through the sequence of tipping points, cascading like dominoes, initiated by valuing women’s contributions less (the contribution to value gap). Here we examine the 4 key dominoes and their implications for recognising, applying and progressing female talent.
The First Domino: The contribution to value gap
From our foundation research, we distilled twenty-one of the most potent and pragmatic strategic enablers of women’s success, of which one of the most pivotal is simply ‘being heard’.
Clearly talent cannot be applied to its best-fit opportunities if it cannot be seen for what it is, and the value and potential it represents. Those that go unrecognised gradually withdraw and limit the extent to and conviction with which they ‘speak up’. How do they know they are unrecognised and/or under-valued? They will be exposed to micro-behaviours which show a neutral or negative response to their contributions and which show more positive responses to the contributions of others. This is real evidence with real consequences.
The Sat Nav to Success Surveys measure these dimensions, i.e. the extent to which people contribute and the proportion of contributions which are valued.
Over the last 3 years the gap between women’s contribution and the extent to which they are valued has widened. In 2019, women the gap was 22.2%, with 69.3% contributing whenever they ‘could or should’, yet only 46.8% reporting that their contributions were consistently valued.
Organisations must make closing this gap their priority. Success in this goes a long way to preventing the following dominos from falling which result in slower progression of female talent, disengagement and therefore loss of productivity and, of course, the gender pay gap
The Second Domino: Belief in capability and readiness for new opportunities
Over the last 3 years a consistent 8 in 10 women reported projecting a convincingly confident front, ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’. However, fewer than 5 in 10 reported feeling ‘genuinely’/‘strongly’ certain of their capability. We believe that this difference is caused by the evidence that their contributions are valued less than others’.
It is not a big leap to see that this impacts how soon women put themselves forward for opportunities, and how compellingly they will present their case if they do. The reality is that many women – albeit subconsciously – think,
‘If I was as good as I need to be, I’d get different responses from the people whose views matter. Given the responses I get, I can’t be ready for new, better work. I need to improve at what I do now’.
To try to address this imbalance, L&D should provide the tools and training to enable women to assess the reality of their capability and potential and how this value connects with the goals of their organisation, function or team.
Managers and leaders also need to gain insights about the impact on outcomes, for both the organisation and individuals, of the systematic errors we all make about groups of people we don’t expect to deliver valuable contributions in certain context. This might mean women, but it’s also highly likely to include people who represent under-valued functions relative to the organisation’s hero function. Ironically, it’s these under-valued functions that we see delivering as the heroes during this Covid-19 crisis. We mustn’t let this status slip in the new world.
The Third Domino: Knowing and engaging with career influencers
Why would you map out the stakeholders in your career and promote yourself to these people if you are given the impression that your current contribution is of less value than others?
The evidence says that most women sign up to this rationale. Last year, less 5 in 10 women reported knowing who the most significant people are to influence their career and only 2 in 10 reported engaging with these influencers.
Many women dislike self-promotion for good reason, as we can now see from the impact of the contribution to value gap. However, this gap actually means that women need to self-promote more effectively than their male counterparts. Indeed, delaying this work can and does result in decision-makers assuming a lack of interest in career opportunities. And the vicious cycle commences – no opportunities offered; no reason to believe in personal capability or potential; no reason to self-promote.
Organisations need to work with women to map the stakeholders in their success and develop clarity on the importance of self-promotion and the techniques for that work for both ‘sides’.
They also need to work with managers, leaders and succession planners to enable them to challenge assumptions about who has the capability, potential and interest to move forward.
The Fourth Domino: Champions, Mentors and Line Managers
We have seen that women need to put themselves on the radar of their career stakeholders. This, however, is not enough.
Longitudinal research into the progression of MBA students in the USA has shown that senior sponsors are the most significant lever in career and pay progression. Sponsors and mentors are distinctly different roles. The former are champions of individuals who gain real clarity on their potential and ensure that they secure pivotal opportunities. Mentors use their experience to share ways to be more effective in the organisation and with key stakeholders.
Women need champions more than their male colleagues. The contribution to value gap means that if organisations are to optimise their performance, the value of women’s contributions needs to be amplified.
Mentors are worth having, but they are less significant in their impact.
Over the last 3 years there has been an increase in the proportion of women receiving no support (46% of respondents in 2019). Of those saying that they have a mentor, many reported that their mentor is their line manager. However, line managers are unlikely to be able to fulfil the true role of a mentor as it can conflict with their views of what they want and need from a member of their team.
In summary, move from a ‘retain’ to a ‘recognise’ overarching strategy
In light of this evidence it’s clear that strategies are needed that enable both people decision-makers and individual women to recognise their capability and potential.
Recognising the value of a wider base of contributors to the organisation’s performance will be fundamental to success in the demanding Covid-19 and post Covid-19 world.
Greater engagement with this wider base through more effective recognition will result in more balanced progression and rewards. This is fundamental to closing the gender pay gap.
In a hurry for the answers? You can contact me directly if you would like to discuss the road map to deliver this change or find out about our webinar programme with modules which address many of these challenges.
Or you can book now for your October webinar presentation of the 2020 Sat Nav insights and fast track road map to success based in the findings of the 2020 Sat Nav to Success Survey, which is open now and until May 31st.
You can take the survey here.
Further instalments in the From ‘Retain’ to ‘Recognise’: How to Close the Gender Pay Gap series being published on LinkedIn include:
- Spotlight on the Part-Time Penalty that could be transformed into competitive advantage.
- Leveraging the positives: the hidden strategies that already make the difference.
- Bringing it all together: The roadmap for success.