women executives
For quite some time, I have been working with large, global companies analyzing topics related to gender. Specifically, many companies are concerned with providing equity between men and women.
  • Are we promoting men and women in equal proportions?
  • Are we hiring fairly across gender?
  • Are we paying men and women equal pay for the same job role?
In recent times, this topic has received great focus in the news. Unfortunately, there is often a large difference between facts and opinions. Real company data show results that are very much in line with studies that have been conducted by academic professionals for the last 30 years. Here are a few real results.

Women are primarily choosing to stay out of technical professions such as those relating to science, technology, engineering and math. Since these professions tend to command a higher salary on the job market, their own career choice is contributing to the gender pay gap. The exception to these choices seems to be in fields such as biotechnology and environmental sciences which can be viewed as more "caring sciences." To be clear, within these sentences I am stating the facts regarding career choices and the impact these choices have on female pay levels. Why these choices are made is an entirely separate topic.

There is also scientific evidence that women are less likely to desire promotions or leadership positions. While this is not the case for all women, many women view leadership positions as being in conflict with their desire for family and time with their family.

Confidence levels between the genders has also been extensively studied. Studies testing male and female confidence levels pertaining to entrepreneurship show a higher self-efficacy level in men. When applying for jobs, women tend to interpret job requirements as absolute. They are less likely than men to apply for a job unless they have almost 100% of the listed skills.

Scientific studies also show that men tend to have a higher level of competitiveness than women. In an experiment where the first task given to men and women was easy and test subjects could pick the difficulty level of the subsequent task, men were 50% more likely to select a harder task.

More than 31 scientific studies are summarized in an eBook called, Gender Gaps in the Workplace: Facts and Science. This eBook shows that it is the choices that women make about career and family that affect the gender pay gap the most, and yet, society blames the companies for which they work.

Having analyzed a great deal of gender data for large companies and testing the fairness of promotions, performance scores and hiring, the results I see are consistent with the scientific studies presented. The gender pay gap is driven primarily by career choices (made for a variety of reasons) and aspiration levels for management and leadership positions. Armed with this knowledge, everyone can now focus on gender diversity initiatives that will be more effective.

Author's Note: I received a question from a reader asking me whether companies have a role in solving societal problems. My reply was as follows: "Voluntarily, they do contribute to closing the gap. I work with several that do. However, the issue starts long before men and women enter the workforce."

Tracey Smith is an internationally recognized analytics expert, speaker and author. She is the author of Gender Gaps in the Workplace: Facts and Science. If you would like to learn more, please visit www.numericalinsights.com or contact Tracey Smith through LinkedIn. You can check out her books on her Amazon Author Page.