How Are You Valuing The Women On Your Team?
Updated: Mar 7, 2020
As International Women's Day approaches (this Sunday, March 8th), it seems appropriate to ask a burning question that has been bouncing around my head for a while now:
How are you valuing the women on your team?
I was in NYC earlier this year and had a chance to catch up with an old college friend. By all accounts, she’s an accomplished professional. Master’s degree from a top university. Nearly 20 years of experience at large multinational companies. Highly visible work. No drama, no nonsense, a hard worker, solid employee who's been with the company for over five years.
So, it was pretty disheartening to hear her recount her experience during an annual review with her boss. She did what we’re told to do when asking for more money – even when it’s rightly deserved, fair, and equal to what prior employees made doing the same work - present what you’ve achieved, demonstrate your value, bring the research, show "the receipts," to quote Amy Klobuchar. And yet, my friend was turned down, and the reasons given had nothing to do with her actual performance or contribution.
By now, we are all aware of the disparities in pay when it comes to equal work between men and women, across all industries. According to Pew research, the gender wage gap has narrowed slightly, but persists. Women in 2018 earned 85% of what men earned. I question the advice given to women to ‘make the case’ when asking to be fairly compensated. The working assumption here is that we don’t fundamentally deserve it. Why must women have to convince and make the case to be fairly compensated – when men simply don’t?
In this day and age, it’s baffling that the same old patterns continue to be perpetuated. But the sting of this injustice is when it’s perpetuated by other women. Women holding other women down.
The social and psychological roots of this phenomenon are complex but surely we cannot make these paradigm shifts if we’re simply adopting misogynistic practices when assuming roles of power. Last month The New York Times Magazine published a timely piece, "A Seat at the Head of the Table" to discuss "Why Aren't Women Advancing More In Corporate America." The two Ivy League professors interviewed, social psychologist and organizational management experts, have made it their life's work to study gender disparity and workplace diversity, then teach corporations how to evolve.
My question: When won't this be timely?
Reflecting on my own career, I have been fortunate to have many female bosses. Yet, I can only think of one instance in a span of two decades where an executive leader said to me, “We value you, we want you to stay here and we want to pay you more. Let’s talk about what that looks like.” Of course, that was with an organization focused on women’s rights.
I look forward to the day when I come across a female leader that genuinely wants to set their female employees up for success and acknowledges the inherited, multi-generational baggage that women are burdened with when it comes to standing up for ourselves and proclaiming our self-worth, in the context of monetary compensation and beyond. As gender complexity becomes more embraced in the workplace, and is seen as the non-binary, ancillary fact it is, perhaps this future is closer than we think.
To readers, we'd love to hear from you on some of the following questions:
Does gender play a role in how you hire or delegate?
Do women discuss workplace gender politics with you?
Do you feel gender has played any role in your pay?
As a female manager, do you actively consider how you handle things so you're "not such a girl about it"?
How are you normalizing conversations about salary and promotions among the women you lead?
Do you feel you're harder or more lenient with females on your teams?
If you report to a female manager, has gender played a role in how you have been or feel you have been perceived?
How do you support the women on your teams in their career advancement?
Have you noticed any evolution toward or away from traditional gender norms in your own career path?
One basic truth remains - as is always the case, communications plays a crucial role in leveling the corporate playing field. Words and actions matter. For starters, companies should take a hard look at how they advertise, recruit, hire, and manage. Is the job description written in a way to diminish the actual work load and scope of responsibilities so salaries can be set lower? Are your word choices intended to attract a certain type of applicant, or excluding the talent and diversity you claim to seek? When was the last time you asked an employee to take on more work without proactively offering more pay? How about replacing traditional year-end reviews with gender-neutral evaluations that base rewards and advancement on facts rather than subjectivity? Or, perhaps more radically, evaluating managers on their gender biases and how they're helping or hindering the advancement of women?
The logic is simple - when employees know they'll be seen (and appropriately compensated) for their actual work and not merely reduced to gender identification expectations - a happier, more creative, productive, and loyal workforce will emerge.