Our CEO's views on Gender Wage Gap

May 17th, 2018

Establishing equality and fairness is a fundamental human right, yet it has been one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Although women have made many strides and gains in the workforce, “equal pay day” is no where to be seen on the horizon. During the last couple of decades, the gap narrowed gradually. However, in most countries around the world, there is still a substantial gender pay gap, except for few cases of a remarkable reduction. But even this slow progress has stalled in recent years. According to the World Economic Forum’s forecast on the average pay for both genders globally, women will not earn equally as men for 217 years.

As for the United States, in 2017 the gap was still 20 percent, and we are at least 70 years away from closing the gender pay gap completely based on the latest data. If progress continues at the alarming rate seen since 2001, pay equity between men and women in the US won’t be reached until 2119. The gender gap manifests itself across the entire economy, when the pay of all women is compared to the pay for all men.

The issue is a lot more complex than simply unequal numbers on pay stubs, and the significant contributors to disparities run as deep in our psyches as they do in the very infrastructural fabric of our societies. Here's how Ken Leren, CEO of Marketing Town, sees gender pay gap.

Ken's Background

KEN LEREN has extensive technological expertise in digital marketing. Over the last decade, he has worked across multichannel marketing campaigns, bringing in-depth experience in lead generation and performance marketing strategies. Having identified a gap in the market for performance management software, he founded Tech Essence and launched Marketing Town, a campaign management, tracking and analytics platform, to help businesses realise digital potential through innovative use of technology.

Tech Essence is a SaaS-based marketing technology solution provider, specialising in helping marketing professionals make informed decisions on measuring and optimising their multi-channel marketing efforts. Notable clients include: Amazon, Dennis Publishing and the FT.

In 2017, Ken was named one of the top leaders in the industry by PerformanceIN; was highly commended in the Tech Business of the Year category & was selected as a finalist for the People’s Champion award at the Startups Awards; he was also included within the MadTech edition of The Fresh Business Thinking Shift 100.

Furthermore, in the same year Tech Essence was recognised as one of the top startups in the UK (Startups 100 2017 Index) and was shortlisted for the ‘UK Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ Award at the UK IT Industry Awards.

What He Believes Are The Root Causes of The Gender Wage Gap

The gender pay gap is a complex issue with many contributing factors that are often interlinked. Before equality legislation it was possible for companies to deliberately discriminate against women by paying them less than men for doing the same role. However, despite the best intentions legislation has not solved the pay gap issue because gender discrimination is not black and white and companies have taken advantage of the ambiguity and have continued to favour men over women.

If you look into roles that require similar skills, qualifications, experience and hours but that are typically filled primarily by a single gender e.g. cleaners, care staff, refuse collectors, street cleaners you will find that the wages and payment structures vary considerable — in favour of the male dominated roles.

Furthermore, it’s widely known that managers tend to hire and mentor people who are similar to themselves. Given that male-heavy management structures are common, younger men are often recruited over younger women, they receive more coaching and are seen as a better cultural fit. This is not ok and it must stop.

Another contributing factor is gender stereotypes that have been embedded in society since the 1950s. Despite the 70 years that have passed, today, women are still seen (consciously or unconsciously) as mothers/homemakers no matter how well they perform in their role and as a consequence are often overlooked for promotion and thus receive lower pay overall.

Senior management teams are at fault, deliberately or not, conducting and therefore condoning, practices that keep the gender pay gap alive. Governments are also at fault for not introducing watertight legislation sooner. Organisations and individuals need to take responsibility for reversing this trend.

What We Need To Do To Narrow The Gender Wage Gap

Sadly, history shows us that gaining equality is more often than not a fight. During World War One women performed traditionally male jobs to fill the gap left by men being called up to fight in the armed forces. In 1918 it emerged that female tram and bus conductors were being paid less than men doing the same role. Those women had to go on strike to force equal pay as it was not forthcoming.

Fifty years later, in 1968, news broke that women machinists at the Ford Car Plant in Dagenham, Essex, who sewed covers for car seats were being paid 87% of men’s wages and their work had been downgraded to ,˜unskilled’. After a 3-week long strike, the female machinists returned to work accepting a pay increase that saw them earn 92% of their male peers’ salary.

It is astonishing that another 50 years later (and 100 years after the bus and tram conductors’ strike) , we are still facing the problem of a gender pay gap.

To address the issue, we need to have more women at board level — NOW. Not in 10 years time, not in two years time. If boards continue to be male-dominated, men will continue to be promoted over women, more men will be hired compared to women and the cycle will never be broken, the problem will never be fixed.

This is easiest done by following the Norwegian and Scandinavian path of forcing 40% representation of each gender on public company boards. There is a great deal of debate about the value of introducing quotas with detractors arguing that quotas create positive discrimination but it doesn’t have to play out that way.

In order to make quotas work certain things need to be addressed ahead of enforcement. Job descriptions need to be reviewed — if you want to appoint a woman to a company board today and the previous experience required reads must have worked at board level for the past 10 years at a similar company you’re going to fail, because you won’t find a woman with that experience (because of the gender gap). A secondary benefit of widening job profiles is that you will experience diversity gains beyond gender — the door will open for people of different backgrounds, education and experience.

This approach then needs to trickle down the entire organisation to create a diverse culture and equality from the top down. Now is the time for organisations and governments to act, not talk.

This article was originally published by Medium/Thrive Global here