I’m sorry, but as a trainer in people development, I have to call it out.

The gender pay gap debate is a Red Herring

The gender pay gap is high on the agenda in the media, in the boardroom and on the shop floor.  But is it just hiding the real issue?  Is it taking our attention away from the cause by talking only about the symptoms? I work with a lot of women in a leadership role.  In fact, I am a delivery partner on a global female leadership development programme.  The women on this programme are impressive.  They are capable and credible leaders of men………and women.  They are an example of how women can make the journey to the top of an organisation regardless of their personal situation.  What these women are addressing is the cause of why some women do not progress in the same way in terms of role, responsibility or remuneration.

UK female graduates earn around £1,600 less than their male peers 

Statistics from the UK show female graduates earn around £1,600 less than their male peers a year after graduation, and the gap gets wider as the years in employment pass.  Here are the latest figures for the financial year 2015-16.

  • One year after graduating a typical salary for women was £18,300. Men were earning £19,900.
  • After three years women were at £21,800 men at £24,400.
  • After five years women were up to £24,500; men at £27,800.
  • After 10 years women had crept up to £27,100 while men leapt forward to £35,100.

Why? After thirteen years in my role as a people developer, getting inside peoples’ head to see the hurdles to achieving their potential, I point the finger at two things; self-assurance and self-confidence.  When asked ‘What is the one thing you would say to your younger self?’ predominantly women say, “Be more self-confident”.  (For the record, men say “Shut up and listen more”.)

Did you ask for more?

Like many of us last week I was discussing the gender pay gap. The story my client Caroline told me sums up the cause.  Caroline told me that her and her husband were interviewing for new jobs at the same time.  Over dinner they discussed the package they had each been offered.  Her husband asks her if she had asked for more.  Caroline said “No.”  When she reciprocated with the same question he said, “Of course”. Whether Caroline’s husband got more or not is not the point.  The point is he had the self-confidence to ask.  Is this because he knew his value to the company?  Is this because he had the cojones to ask?  Is it because he had been programmed to do so?

It starts when we are children

I protect my little girl from danger because she is delicate and precious, but I encourage my nephew to “Go on, have a go”.  (Truth be known I treated my little girl like a Tomboy and, on the surface, she appears to have no self-doubt.  You just have to meet her to witness that.)  So, it may be too late for women in work today but parents can change the gender pay gap of the future by giving our little girls just as much self-confidence and self-assurance as the boys. Ladies, you are far far better than you give yourself credit for.  And men are just as unsure at times, but they are able to bury it. Here come the girls.

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