There is little doubt that ingrained in all of us (or at least the vast majority of us) is an unconscious bias which favours men relative to women. There are countless proof points of this unconscious bias.
By David Wakeley
My favourite is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which was heavily male dominated despite there being no gender advantage in musical ability and hence elite musicians being relatively evenly distributed by gender. When the orchestra responded to a challenge to conduct blind auditions, by putting a black screen on the stage when each musician walked out to audition, they found they still had male bias (although not as strong). When it was suggested the musicians remove their shoes when they walked out onto stage behind the curtain, the result was an even gender distribution of musicians selected. So ingrained is our unconscious bias, that the very sound of shoes and gait were able to trigger a bias.
There is little surprise that we are able to sustain an unconscious bias in favour of men when we continue to tolerate a clear conscious bias in remuneration. I suspect we will not change our unconscious bias, until we are able to identify, own and correct our clear conscious bias. Recognising Bias: Sometimes your point of view is obscured simply by your position, it doesn't take much to recognise a different view is valid.
There is a clear case for change that can be constructed from a human rights perspective. I think there is no doubt that we would all feel that people of equal capability, performing the same role should be rewarded equally irrespective of some demographic characteristic (eg gender, ethnicity, football team supported etc etc). However, there is a less important, but perhaps more relevant (to some) case for change – the fact that organisations that have addressed the gender pay gap outperform others in terms of profitability and growth (there are many studies that support this – so rather than list them here I will invite you to google away on the topic).
The business case for closing the gender pay gap (built on the premise that those that do close the gap perform better) should not surprise us. It seems clear, that whenever an organisation’s behavioural characteristics are honest, transparent, supportive and equitable we see increases in employee engagement and in turn, we see increases in financial performance.
The gender pay gap exists and I think it is time that we face up to it and fix it!
David Wakeley is a Director of Bank Australia and Non-Executive Director of Adviser Ratings