The gender glass ceiling

When we think of equality, we look around the room and start thinking of bonuses, company and “Who gets what?” This is only natural because the remuneration scales are the only barometer and tangible thing, we, as women, have to assess how employers, peers and the market feel about female contribution.

We’ve all been given career advice over the years. To be decisive, aggressive, to be less risk adverse, to sign up and “Go get ‘em” The question is really, why do we expect all women to act this way? The truth is, because it is easier. Easier to manage everyone in exactly the same way, with a race to take on more P&L responsibility en route. If everyone is managed exactly the same, we result in a team of exact clones, all vying for the next promotion. We ask women to be something that they might not inherently be. This is for some, exhausting. It becomes a negative focus and often the reason why women leave senior posts.

The business world is changing. There is a real need for empathy, a need for deeper client relationships and a necessity for diversity to engage with the whole market, not just the 50.1% that is male.

Our firm, 360 Search recently conducted a survey anonymously to see what women really feel about the balance of sexes in their bank balances.

When I further researched the topic, I looked to see why women were not competing for the top jobs. Many assumed it was again, a risk aversion, perhaps a lack of confidence or the reality of poor flexibility for females at C Suite levels.

The research showed the women were less likely to apply for a job if they had been rejected for a similar role in the past. The gents were also less likely but the negative effect was much stronger for females at 1.5 times. This led me to think about the topic of professional rejection. The higher on the ladder you aspire to get, rejection becomes success’ DNA. No actor gets an Oscar on opening night.

Thankfully, measures in the UK to close out the pay gap have begun with employers with 250 or more employees to publish statutory calculations every year showing the gap between male and female colleagues. These results will be published on the employer’s own website and on a government website. This means any difference in comp will be available publicly, to clients, employees and to any future recruits. Ireland, we should take a leaf…

In the survey, we had 237 responses from women in the insurance market and wider financial services field. The most interesting part of the exercise was the feedback from the Comments Section. The feedback (again anon.) varied from “The insurance industry has and always will be run by a boys club” through to “ Being pushed to behave like males at management meetings”

There seemed to be slightly disturbing undertones to some of the feedback given, which infers that male counterparts were given the business at rugby games rather than during core business hours where their account manager was female.

Perhaps we need to raise visibility of poor behaviour from the top down? Or better equip our male pals in the office on how to support us?

Another question was whether promotions happened in the market on the basis of merit alone and not on long standing male-buddy statuses.

Something else that is worthy of discussion came from the population of working mums out there. The feeling that competence in the role at hand should be measured on quality and results, not on the number of hours spent in the office. That in some instances gender wasn’t an issue until “ The kids came along” which meant that extra projects, networking events and other fora were presumed to come second to getting home to the kids. This disconnect seems to exist between how companies approach leadership and what female leaders are actually looking for

As Sheryl Sandberg says “In the future, there will be no female leaders, there will only be leaders” and I’ll second that.

If you have a view or would like to have a confidential chat about your career, please contact me at or on 0861709771.

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