THE BLOG

Women Are Losing the Bonus Battle, but If You Can't Beat 'Em - Change 'Em

23/08/2013 10:25 BST | Updated 21/10/2013 10:12 BST

It's 2013 and women make up 47% of workforce; 33% of managers but only 13% of FTSE250 board members.

How much has changed for women in leadership over the past decade? Let's take a look:

The number of women in management has increased, from 24% in 2001 to 32% today. Over 64% of entry level managers today are women. The number of female middle managers has grown from 25.5% in 2001 to 40% in 2013. But despite these growing numbers, only one in four chief executives is a woman, and in top FTSE companies there are even fewer.

When it comes to salaries, the gender pay gap at senior levels has gotten worse - In 2000 female department managers earned 99% what their male counterparts did and by 2013 they earned 94%.

Differences in bonuses are further widening the gender pay gap, especially at the top. At £36,270, female directors' bonuses are dwarfed by the average amount taken home by male directors in the last year - £63,700.

The higher women get the fewer there are, and the less they are paid. Yet girls get better grades, are the majority at university and are the majority of junior managers. A McKinsey study in 2012 showed exactly the same pattern at over 60 companies surveyed. It seems that even after all these years, ladies still slip off the ladder.

What has changed? Not enough.

Unlike in 2000, there is a huge body of evidence that proves how vital gender balance is to societies all over the world. Research by Catalyst, Credit Suisse and Thomson Reuters indisputably shows diversity drives business growth in the developed world. The flip side of this is that by failing to develop a diverse talent pipeline, businesses are missing out on growth. We also know diversity helps businesses improve well-being and engagement, which also contributes to business success.

So why is there so little change? The answer is: culture.

We need, quite simply, to change the culture in which we work. This echoes the latest report from the Government's Women's Business Council. It featured a survey by the World Economic Forum which found the most cited barriers to women's rise to leadership were "general norms and practices" and a "masculine/patriarchal corporate culture". Indeed, Harvard research showed that only 19% of middle and junior female managers aspired to the C-suite, compared with 36% of men. And the most cited reason for not doing so was the culture.

The Council's chair Ruby McGregor-Smith, chief executive of outsourcing giant MITIE, said "women should not just try to fit into the economy, they should be shaping it".

But we need to do more. In the words of Arianna Huffington, we need to change the definition of success-- one that isn't just about power or money, but instead is about becoming human, and giving something back, and to, those whom we work with.

Because until we do that, our highly capable young women are entering a culture that isn't setting them up to succeed. Not because they cannot, but because they do not want to adhere to the same culture of success that has been created by their mostly male leaders. And so they opt out. It's reflected in the numbers I cited in the opening of this blog. Over 60% start at the bottom on equal pay; less than 20% make it to the top, and on less pay.

So how can we prevent this? How can we encourage girls, and boys, and the managers and leaders in our world to look for new definitions of success to the benefit of us all?

To change culture, we must change behaviour and we can start by supporting able women. Your organisation will benefit. By support I mean give them development opportunities - take them to important meetings, introduce them to important clients, give them seat at the table where networking happens and deals get done. Encourage their progress. Sponsor them.

Make your performance criteria about outcomes, not office time. And give people the opportunity to be flexible in how they achieve outcomes. Today's technology renders office 9-to-5 (and longer) an increasingly unnecessary construct.

It's important for everyone to know they are being paid fairly and equally. We advocate that organisations publish the percentage of women at junior, middle and top levels vs. men and what they are paid. This is data every organisation has. Transparency makes it easier to measure and prove progress. If you think you are getting an unfair deal on pay, ask your organisation for this data. Ask how bonuses are awarded and where you fit in vs. those criteria.

Diversity is a business issue - not just one of human rights. CMI advocates that organisations set targets for diversity - not quotas. Then measure and share progress against those targets. Coke did this. CEO Muktar Kent looked around three years ago and saw about 23% of women in senior roles. Not enough he said; he wanted 40% in three years. He got it. It's now 43%. (And the successful companies in the aforementioned McKinsey study did this too). To find out more about how to change workplace culture and develop female talent, attend the Developing the Talent Pipeline conference on 9 October.

Over dozen years have passed but we are not moving forward fast enough. Although the rate of change is slow, the weight of evidence for gender equality is not. It's overwhelming. I believe we are entering a tipping point. It's not about men or women - it's about men and women. But to really change management culture, women need to stay opted in. If you can't beat 'em, change 'em!