More than 8o percent of the thousands of business executives who responded to a recent Korn Ferry survey said their organisations don’t possess the leadership capabilities they need. So why aren’t more companies making a bigger push to close the gender pay gap, and to benefit even more from the talents of half their workforce?

There are many ways to level the playing field for women’s progress in organisations.  One key way is to achieve wage parity and ensure more women advance to senior managerial levels, including to CEO, board director, and C-suite executive positions. To get women there, we need to ensure that early, and throughout their careers, they receive mission-critical and complex assignments─and that they receive candid feedback about their performance. Both of these are essential to build the skills, experiences, and attributes most valued at the top.

Besides capturing the corporate concerns about talent pipelines, in a survey with more than 7,000 respondents for its study on Real World Leadership, we examined the gender pay gap in detail.

We found the gap exists globally─just not in the way many people think. Instead, tapping into its database of more than 20 million salaries at 25,000 organisations in 100 nations, we found the gap is small—as low as 2.7% in France, for instance, or 1.4% in Australia, or .8% in Britain—for like positions. While the firm did not look at US data, the disparities identified found can be pegged to women still not getting access to the highest-paying jobs.

Our study also offered a solid business case for why the gender pay gap must be closed─and why and how organisations can benefit if they stop underutilizing half their workforce. Here are some of our recommendations. They are outlined in more detail in the report, Leveling the Playing Field: What Organisations Can Do.

Steps to leveling the playing field for women: 

  1. Rethink how women get recruited, developed, and rewarded.
    Are processes and postings bias-free? Are diverse candidates, especially women, sought out even before posts are advertised? When it comes to pay, are women recognized without bias, say through big data and performance metrics that see their key roles as influencers at hubs of work, where they are in the middle of the action?
  2. Ensure robust representation of women in the talent pipeline.
    Are companies’ elite, men and women, championing diversity programs? Are they actively recruiting females into such efforts, rather than relying on women to step up and apply? Do positions put unnecessary demands for rising leaders to disrupt families with frequent moves, especially overseas? Are expectations about candidates’ “fit” for roles realistic and mission critical?
  3. Scrutinize the culture─and being willing to change it.
    What do women want in the workplace culture, and what does sound, current research say about benefits that females really desire? Is the workplace toxic to women, such that they are forced to act just like aggressive, unhappy male colleagues? Do leaders at all levels, especially in the middle, not only campaign for gender and other forms of diversity but embrace the idea that it betters the organisation?

Download the report Leveling the Playing Field: What Organisations Can Do, for more Korn Ferry tips on how to promote, develop and reward women.

This is the first of three parts: Closing the gender pay gap. Download this document and the next two will be sent to your email in the coming weeks.

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About Contributor

Bevan Gray is the Product Sales Leader for Germany, Austria, Switzerland at Korn Ferry. He works with directors, CEOs and senior management teams at the intersection of strategy, organisation, and leadership to enhance team culture and performance.

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