Gender Pay Gap Cynicism and the need for Proxy Metrics

05/04/2018

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By: Fiona Hathorn, WOB UK's MD : Fiona's view on the need for 'Proxy Metrics' and not just blanket targets for women in senior management.

Cynicism is setting in across the corporate world, and middle manager men, who are feeling threatened, believe that their chances of being promoted are now zero because of their organisations' headline targets for women. This is clearly not the case, but nonetheless there are too many companies who are setting ridiculous headline targets for women in senior management that are not achievable, given low turnover at the top.
 
What companies need to do to 'shift the needle' as regards women in senior management, is to identify precise actions that will bring about change within ttheir individual companies. High-level metrics are relatively slow moving because the tenure of incumbents is usually quite long. In some businesses, senior executive team members stay for decades. While it may be good for businesses, it’s a significant challenge for gender balance progress. To read the full article click on the headline above.

 

Full Article by Fiona below;

Firstly, what causes the Gender Pap Gap? Many things, but the key issues are;
 
- Kids
- Occupational segregation
- Flexible working
- Vertical segregation
 
With regard to all of the above, it really comes down to our society and current expectations about what women should and should not do - something deeply embedded in our minds, which is difficult to change and is not yet be tackled at home or within schools. 
 
It is terrific that we now have the gender pay gap data but what now? Over the next few years, it is vital that companies ensure they make progress on gender, and inclusion, to ensure that women and minorities have access to information and the same support as has historically been afforded to our vision of a leader, the 'tall' white male.
 
However, cynicism is setting in across the corporate world, and middle manager men are feeling threatened, believing that their chances of being promoted are now zero. This is clearly not the case but nonetheless there are too many companies who are setting ridiculous headline targets for women in senior management that are not achievable, given low turnover at the top.
 
Hence why I like this article by UGM consulting = > Why Gender Balance needs Proxy Metrics. Below are a few 'key' bullet points from their article, which I happen to love and agree with.
 
For most who have some interest in the topic (many women and an increasing number of men), the gender balance on boards is probably the most recognisable yardstick of progress. The UK Government's recent target for FTSE Boards is currently 33%.
 
The corporate world is certainly doing a lot better now, where boards are concerned, but gender balance below the board is a more complex topic and for progress to be made at the executive level one needs to have more than just blanket high-level targets as a sole measure for gender balance progress within your organisation.
 
I believe that what we need to do is to identify precise actions that will bring about change within individual companies. High-level metrics are relatively slow moving because the tenure of incumbents is usually quite long. In some businesses, senior executive team members stay for decades. While it may be good for businesses, it’s a significant challenge for gender balance progress.
 
Here are UGM Consulting views on the subject: If you’re not going to look solely at one high-level indicator of gender balance, what factors might you consider? Here are some ideas for where you may want to look for suitable gender balance proxies.
 
1. Do your gender balance targets have teeth? Are there rewards for achieving them and consequences for falling short?
 
2. Do you have measures that take into account the uniqueness of each context in the organisation, or is it just the same few everywhere? An example of a unique metric might be how often different team members (noting gender) speak in team meetings.
 
3. Is there flexibility in roles? How is this measured? How often is it exercised? Do some use it more than others? If so, do you know why?
 
4. Is gender balance a standing item on the regular meeting that reviews team progress?
 
5. Are a series of possible gender balance measures trialled, in a way where ideas that work are embedded and those that don’t quickly dropped?
 
With regard to some specific proxy metric targets, which your organisation can measure, take a look at these and see if they make sense for your sector, department or company;
 
- targets for no. of women interviewed for stretch promotions
- targets for no. of women assigned to special projects
- targets for no. of women who are committee chairs
- targets for no. of women considered for leadership programmes
- targets for no. of women on leadership programmes
- targets for no. of men taking paternity leave
- targets for no. of times women speak at meetings
- targets for no. of different universities visited for graduate intake and how many women on the open days are actually talked to
- targets for no. of female clients entertained
- targets for no. of client events that are not dominated by male sport
 
Once you have collected the above data, by a department for example, you can then monitor and measure your achievements as regards inclusivity and cultural change - hopefully, this means you will then be able to collate the data for a division and champion a leader's inclusive achievements.

Championing small achievements will be very important for you when your headline data is not moving as fast as you wish. However with this proxy data it will at least mean you will be able to show that things within your company are changing for the better, so that one day you will see significant improvement in your headline number. 
 
The above metrics might seem silly but they matter - and they enable you to measure 'change' within your organisation, across different departments and areas. 

For example, I know of a large supermarket that realised that women were not making it to store manager level. When they looked at it they realised why - women were not being offered the food area to manage but rather health and beauty. Managing a food area was more complicated so this experience was vital in order to be considered for the store manager's job. Consequently a new metric was created by the company to measure the number of women being interviewed for food managerial promotions.
 
Gender pay gap data may be simple measure but it forces companies to be more innovative and work hard to attract different talent to different areas - proxy metrics will help ensure you achieve your higher level targets and will not alienate existing manager who should be involved with creating their own micro inclusion targets. 
 

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