Management / Rene Carayol: Time for today’s business leaders to admit they have their gender equation completely wrong

Rene Carayol: Time for today’s business leaders to admit they have their gender equation completely wrong

Equal Pay Day was on November 9 but, just like everything else about the vital and necessary debate around women in business, it just didn’t have the necessary prominence or positive media coverage.

rene-199x300Equal Pay Day is essentially the day in the year that women stop earning relative to average men’s salaries. Therefore, women effectively stop getting paid on November 9, while men continue to receive salary for the rest of the year.

The average female full-time worker in the UK earns 14.5 per cent less than her male counterpart – or 85.5 pence for every £1 earned by a man.

That means, relative to men, women effectively are not paid a penny for the final 52 days of the year. How can that be right?

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money, recently presented a set of proposals focused on tackling the gender imbalance of women in finance, after a government-commissioned study.

Her most innovative recommendation was to review the bonuses of city executives, and have them directly linked to the targets for the number of women in senior roles.

John Mann, Labour MP and member of the Treasury committee, responded by saying: “The proposals are good and pragmatic. I think it will have an impact on bank culture, although it is not a panacea.” He also commented that a “laddish culture” fuelled the Libor-fixing scandal and this has not helped the reputation of the banks.

George Kerevan, a Scottish National Party MP also on the committee, said the issue about gender has a direct correlation to profits. “Research shows that having more women at board level improves the bottom line.  We all know remuneration at senior levels in the financial community is target-driven and paid in a large measure through bonuses. So Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s proposal to link bonuses to improving gender balance makes commercial sense as well as being the right thing to do.”

Prejudice and bigotry is rarely based on reason, so why do we try to use reason (numbers and statistics) to try to change their minds?

“Threats rarely work unless the person has something to lose,” says Pavita Cooper, chief executive and founder of More Difference. “While you may not be responsible for being held back, you need to take responsibility for getting where you deserve to be.”

Her executive search firm has decided to spark a completely different rhythm from those of the traditional search giants, and they seek what they call “game changers” who embody difference and may well plug that executive gap in a less orthodox fashion.

Nobody argues against the case for women at the top anymore – in fact, everyone appears to be willing, but still not enough actually happens. We don’t need more time – we just need more concerted action.

The real act of courage needed is for current business leaders to announce that they have got their gender equation completely wrong, then many more will try so much harder to get it right without the fear of failure.

Many have thought that if it had been Lehman Sisters as opposed to Lehman Brothers, they might well be still alive today.

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