This is the first article in the From ‘Retain’ to ‘Recognise’: How to Close the Gender Pay Gap series being published over the next 9 weeks, sharing the key insights from the last 3 years’ Women’s Sat Nav to Success Surveys, to provide clarity on what matters most and can make the most difference in closing your gender pay gap.
The aim of this article is to introduce the dynamic which sets the dominos falling, creating a range of negative consequences for organisations and individuals.
By focusing on understanding and addressing this dynamic you can successfully and sustainably reduce the range of symptoms which doggedly persist in many organisations, undermining performance, engagement and the organisation’s external reputation. Focusing on addressing this will deliver the highest return on your D&I investment, gain immediate results and support, and reduce your gender pay gap.
To close the gender pay gap significantly, we need better gender balance higher up in organisations and in the higher paying and higher bonusing functions. Simple.
Progressing talent should also be simple. Gatekeepers of opportunities ‘just’ need to recognise people who have the right capability and potential, and there are two common ways that are relied on, particularly for higher level roles:
- The capability and potential shows up in what people do and deliver, and the way they do it.
- People put themselves forward and convince gatekeepers that they have what it takes.
However, this approach has two fundamental flaws.
Firstly, it assumes that gatekeepers have the ability to recognise capability and potential regardless of the individual’s profile – gender, age, ethnicity, function, etc. – and this falls foul of unconscious bias: a fact that is increasingly well understood, if unsuccessfully addressed.
Secondly, it assumes that people with the potential and desire to progress know that they are capable and ready, and that they will therefore make it known and market themselves effectively. However, the reality is that those people whose profile means that they are not expected to do as well in a particular role, function or level will receive micro-messages* that their contributions are not as valuable as others – others who have a profile which is expected to deliver the desired outcomes reliably. These micro-messages are evidence – often unconsciously communicated and unconsciously received – that the individual is not as good, not as ready, not as suitable as others. And therefore, they will have reason to hold back on self-promotion and/or be less effective at self-promotion.
The annual Women’s Sat Nav to Success measures these two dimensions – the extent to which people contribute (whenever they could or should) and the frequency with which their contributions are valued. This has resulted in the identification of a gap experienced by women – the Contribution-to Value Gap – whereby a much lower proportion of women reported having their contributions consistently valued than reported consistently contributing.
In 2018 it first became clear that this was a gap that was not experienced by the men that participated in the research: the same proportion reported consistently having their contributions valued that reported consistently contributing.
This suggests that when men contribute, they can feel more confident that their work is valued, and psychological research show that this is likely to propel them onwards; whereas the experience women encounter is more likely to sow seeds of doubt about their readiness, capability and potential. As I will show in our third article of the series, this can delay when they seek progression, it can reduce their stakeholder engagement and limit their view of the potential.
And the contribution-to-value gap women experience has been getting wider.
The bottom line is that if we don’t learn to demonstrably recognise and appreciate talent on an on-going basis we will undermine the engagement of that talent, losing the performance we seek and its future potential. That talent won’t put itself forward when it should, and it may not be compelling if it does.
The opportunity for the HR, L&D and D&I community is to exchange the word ‘retain’ for ‘recognise’.
Prisons retain people.
Thriving organisations recognise the value of their employees and work hard to bring that value to fruition for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Creating the habits of balanced, demonstrable recognition will reduce the gender pay gap sustainably, increase engagement and increase performance.
*Micro-messages are behaviours driven by unconscious bias and differentiate between members of groups we expect to reliably deliver the outcomes we seek, compared to those we do not expect to. Micro-messages can take many forms including spoken words to body language directed positively towards the ‘expect’ group members and negatively towards the ‘don’t expect’ group members. They communicate that we value the contributions of the ‘don’t expect’ group less than those of the ‘expect’ group.
In a hurry for the answers? You can contact me direct if you would like to discuss the route map to deliver this change or if you’d like to explore any of the concepts discussed here.
Here are the instalments of the From ‘Retain’ to ‘Recognise’: How to Close the Gender Pay Gap series being published on LinkedIn:
- The first domino triggering the cascade which ends in the gender pay gap.
- The cognitive bias that stops you succeeding by stopping you trying: why you might be deluding yourself in thinking ‘it’s OK here’.
- Focusing resources where it matters: the most pivotal impact points undermining the progression of female talent.
- 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.
Contact me if you’d like to know more about the Sat Nav to Success annual research surveys, to become a sponsor, supporter or to register for the 2020 survey.