In the words of Beyonce;
‘Who run the world? Girls’
Of course, this isn’t strictly true, but this week’s appointments of Emma Walmsley as CEO designate at GSK, Kate Stanners as global chairman ad Saatchi and Saatchi, and Hillary declared unofficial winner of last night’s presidential debate, things are looking up for women in positions of power.
There’s clearly a movement to improve the status quo of working women; with the 30% Club, the Women on Boards Review, and consequently more than 70 banks and City firms having agreed to the government’s ‘Women in Finance’ charter, linking their bosses’ bonuses to the appointment of women to senior jobs.
A long way to go
But despite these promising headlines, there’s still a long way to go. The UK is one of the worst countries in Europe for gender diversity. Research by Deloitte shows the hourly pay gap between men and women is closing at a rate of just 2.5p per year – with pay parity not expected until 2069.
A recent study of Australian women has found that women were asking for salary increases as much as their male colleagues, but men were just more likely to actually get one.
In working culture, there has been the whole kerfuffle around women being told to wear more makeup and heels at work, with little comment about the appearance of their male colleagues. And of course Trump told us last night that Hillary doesn’t have the ‘look’ to be President of the USA (and she pretended not be sick, for fear of being seen as weak). Goodness.
So what more can be done?
Shared Parental Leave
If dads took more paternity and shared parental leave, it would free up more women to return to work. Whilst this was introduced in 2015, dads just aren’t yet taking it up. Perhaps its not the done thing, they earn greater salaries, or are too nervous to ask.
Most of us don’t have the privileges enjoyed by Marissa Mayer. The cost of childcare can make returning to work barely worthwhile, with an average part time nursery place now costing up to £6,000 a year.
“Without bold changes women will keep dropping out of the workplace and men will keep dropping out of their families. This is bad for our economy and our society,” Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party says.
There are some positive trends on the horizon, however, with leading organisations creating incentives to help women overcome hurdles and get back to work. The Enternship, founded by PR execs Dara Kaplan and Gwen Wunderlich of Wunderlich Kaplan Communications, is an internship program open to women who’ve either left their jobs to have children, or are retired or semi-retired.
But here’s the rub; does the quest for power lead to happiness?
We’ve long seen that this may not be the case, and recent research suggests female interns and sales reps self report higher job satisfaction than female VPs & MDs. Perhaps related to higher expectations, workload, the stress of additional responsibility, greater exposure to office politics, or simply a more experienced perspective.
What’s really interesting, is many senior-level women continue to question their success even after they’ve made it to the top. According to a Bain & Company and LinkedIn study, at the senior level, men and women are equally likely to have aspiration and confidence. But they are also more likely to question their ability to keep going.
Perhaps this is because its lonely at the top for female leaders. There’s only 7 role models in the FTSE 100. When women look around and don’t see others they aspire to emulate it’s challenging to get excited about their success. Or perhaps women are more likely to prioritise several roles – CEO, caregiver, partner and its exhusting to juggle them all.
But lets not give up
Women in leadership – it’s a hard slog. Undoubtedly, when the 30% Club (50% Club?) have met their aims and the gender pay gap is narrower, we’ll have a whole tribe of female leaders supporting each other, wearing whatever they deem appropriate. Now that’s something to aim for.
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