Women experience inequities at every career stage, even after decades of efforts

Women experience inequities at every career stage, even after decades of efforts
Women lag behind men in both job level and salary starting from their first position post-business school and do not catch up, according to Catalyst’s Pipeline’s Broken Promise, the latest report examining high potential graduates from top business schools around the world. The study, released in mid-February, reveals that the assertion that women advance in compensation and level at the same pace as men is overstated and, in many cases, completely wrong.

“Absolutely HR departments have a role to play in resolving inequity,” says report co-author Christine Silva, Director, Research, Catalyst. “HR departments can support equity in the workplace through collecting and tracking metrics regarding career advancement and salary growth to identify potential inequities as a first step toward change, developing or restructuring talent management systems to ensure they are bias-free, establishing appropriate training programs for all people managers, and acting as a subject-matter expert on the importance of diversity for business performance for executives or others throughout the organization.”  

The report, part of a broad, ongoing study of thousands of women and men MBA alumni in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, provides a global analysis of the pace of progress for these high potential employees. Even after taking into account experience, industry, and region, the report found women start at lower levels than men, make on average $4,600 less in their initial jobs, and continue to be outpaced by men in rank and salary growth. Only when women begin their post-MBA career at mid-management or above do they achieve parity in position with men. However, this accounts for only 10 per cent of the women and 19 per cent of the men surveyed.

“ ‘Give it time,’ has run its course,” says Ilene H. Lang, president and chief executive officer, Catalyst. “In a world where women comprise 40 per cent of the global workforce and are earning advanced and professional degrees in record numbers-even surpassing men in many cases-gender inequity is a waste. Companies without parity for women at all levels are unsustainable. Smart leaders will act now or risk falling behind.”

Men, the report showed, were twice as likely as women to hold CEO or senior executive positions and less likely to be at lower levels, where women were overrepresented. Parenthood and level of aspiration did not explain the results. The findings held when considering women and men without children as well as those who aspired to senior leadership positions. Men, in general, were also found to be more satisfied with their careers overall than women. Thus, despite well-intentioned programs, companies around the globe have neglected to develop talented women and failed to build meritocracies.

CEOs and executives from major companies offered insights and suggestions on the study’s findings throughout the report. Some of these include:

- Don’t assume that the playing field has been levelled.
- Redesign systems to correct early inequities.
- Collect and review salary growth metrics.
- Build in checks and balances against unconscious bias.
- Make assignments based on qualifications, not presumptions.

Sponsors of Pipeline’s Broken Promise include American Express Company at the President’s Circle level; Barclays Capital at the Executive Circle level; and at the Mentor Circle level Chevron Corporation, Credit Suisse Group, General Motors Company, The Procter & Gamble Company, and Scotiabank.

This research is part of The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, a longitudinal study on high potential talent. Between Fall 2007 and Spring 2008, Catalyst conducted an online survey of alumni who graduated between 1996 and 2007 from MBA programs at 26 leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Report findings draw from the 4,143 respondents who completed full-time MBA programs and worked full-time in companies or firms at the time of the survey.

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading non-profit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than 400 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women’s advancement with the Catalyst Award.

For more information on this and other Catalyst research, visit www.catalyst.org.

Labour, women's groups release "reality check" on women's equality

In related news, elementary teachers have endorsed a report produced by labour and women's groups that is described as a "reality check" of Canada's lagging performance in achieving women's equality. The report will be distributed at the Beijing + 15 meeting being held at the United Nations in New York, March 1-12.

"Canadian women have lost a lot of ground in the past 15 years," says Sam Hammond, president, Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

"Our government has sent a report to the United Nations that paints a rosy picture on women's equality in Canada. The document produced by the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action and the Canadian Labour Congress is a reality check on what the government is saying."

The UN meeting will evaluate progress, identify challenges, and recommend policies to promote gender equality and the advancement of women's rights. This year holds special significance because it marks the 15th anniversary of the UN's Fourth World Conference on Women.

"Teachers see the consequences of poverty every day in their classrooms. They know how hard it is for children to learn when they are hungry or excluded because they cannot afford fees, materials, or proper clothing. With more women and girls living in poverty and being denied fundamental human rights, we are compromising Canada's future," Hammond says.

Hammond notes that Canada has made commitments to implement equal pay for work of equal value, but the federal government hasn't lived up to its commitments. "The government removed the right to pay equity for federal public sector workers in 2009. The issue is raised in this report and will be front and center next week at the United Nations.

"Five years ago, Canada was ranked amongst the top ten countries in the world for its achievements in women's human rights, but in 2009 Canada had fallen to 73rd in the UN Gender Disparity Index. Changes to gender architecture, shifts in government policy and programming, and the government's inaction to the economic crisis have been felt by the most vulnerable women and girls in Canada."

The joint report is called Reality Check: Women in Canada and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Fifteen Years On, A Canadian Civil Society Response. It is endorsed by a variety of other organizations, including ETFO.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario represents 73,000 elementary public school teachers and education workers across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.