Going full tilt

Fewer than 17% of the thousands of business executives who responded to a recent Korn Ferry Hay Group survey said their organizations possess the leadership capabilities they need. So why aren’t more companies making a bigger push to close the gender pay gap, and to benefit even more from the talents of half their workforce?

First of three parts: Closing the gender pay gap

"Organizations can better support women's progress in many ways," said Peggy Hazard, Korn Ferry Hay Group’s managing partner and co-lead for Advancing Women Worldwide Solutions. "Our research shows one key way to achieve wage parity is to ensure more women advance to senior managerial levels, including to CEO, board director, and C-suite executive positions. To get women there, we need to ensure that early, and throughout their careers, they receive mission-critical and complex assignments─and that they receive candid feedback about their performance. Both of these are essential to build the skills, experiences, and attributes most valued at the top.”

Besides capturing the corporate concerns about talent pipelines in a survey with more than 7,000 respondents for its study on Real World Leadership, the firm recently and separately examined the gender pay gap.

Korn Ferry Hay Group found the gap exists globally─just not in the way many people think. Instead, tapping into its database of more than 20 million salaries at 25,000 organizations in 100 nations, the firm found the gap is small—as low as 2.7% in France, for instance, or 1.4% in Australia, or .8% in Britain—for like positions. While the firm did not look at US data, the disparities identified found can be pegged to women still not getting access to the highest-paying jobs.

The company’s study also offered a solid business case for why the gender pay gap must be closed─and why and how organizations can benefit if they stop underutilizing half their workforce.

What sorts of steps should companies undertake? As outlined in the report, Leveling the Playing Field : What Organizations Can Do, these include:

  • Rethinking how women get recruited, developed, and rewarded. Are processes and postings bias-free? Are diverse candidates, especially women, sought out even before posts are advertised? When it comes to pay, are women recognized without bias, say through big data and performance metrics that see their key roles as influencers at hubs of work, where they are in the middle of the action?
  • Ensuring robust representation of women in the talent pipeline. Are companies’ elite, men and women, championing diversity programs? Are they actively recruiting females into such efforts, rather than relying on women to step up and apply? Do positions put unnecessary demands for rising leaders to disrupt families with frequent moves, especially overseas? Are expectations about candidates’ “fit” for roles realistic and mission critical?
  • Scrutinizing the culture─and being willing to change it. What do women want in the workplace culture, and what does sound, current research say about benefits that females really desire? Is the workplace toxic to women, such that they are forced to act just like aggressive, unhappy male colleagues? Do leaders at all levels, especially in the middle, not only campaign for gender and other forms of diversity but embrace the idea that it betters the organization?