Raising their sights

It's a number that many women are all too familiar with: Overall, females globally earn 20% less than men do in the workforce. But it turns out that focusing on specific career growth measures might go a long way toward closing that gap, according to recent Korn Ferry Hay Group research.

Second of three parts: Closing the gender pay gap

The firm examined the gender pay gap and found that it exists worldwide—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 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. "Unless women are proactive about tackling their own headwinds─the items that impede their progress─and managing their careers,” said Desi Kimmins, a principal consultant for Korn Ferry’s leadership and talent consulting practice, “even the best, top-down initiatives will fail.”

So what should women do? The firm, in the report Leveling the Playing Field: What Women Can Do to Close the Gender Pay Gap, advises them that they should:

  • Look clearly at their current standing in their workplace. They need to take time to figure where they want to go, and how they will get there.
  • Take risks and put themselves forward for positions they may not feel totally qualified for, just as men now do.
  • Avoid getting stuck in lower or middle levels of organizations because they become so technically adept and perfectionist that others, particularly bosses, think they cannot be replaced, meaning they get passed over for advancement.
  • Network aggressively, and seek out effective mentors. They should aim to develop gravitas, the executive presence of keeping cool under fire.
  • Shed their guilt─about trying to doing it all, at home and at work; doing it perfectly; and never inconveniencing others, especially colleagues and subordinates.