Recently, I was invited to chair a “Breakfast & Learn” session at our Dassault Systèmes office in Coventry (UK). The topic: UK Gender Pay Gap. This article is a reflection on that great learning and interactive experience.
What is “Breakfast & Learn”? One-hour monthly awareness sessions organized by our Great Place to Work (GPTW) ambassadors around a specific theme. Ideally, the presenters should keep the topic light and open, avoid the profusion of slides, encourage the audience participation, and limit the use of jargon. A healthy breakfast is provided along.
Why me? I founded the EuroNorth Dassault Systèmes Lean In circles in 2016 to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at a regional level, I’m a member of the EuroNorth Diversity and Inclusion Council, and I’ve had the pleasure to host virtual employee meetings with our UK HR team to discuss the findings of our gender pay gap reports for 2016/2017 and for 2017/2018.
Why this topic? I learned that the recent publication of the Dassault Systèmes Gender Pay Gap report had been a hot topic for discussion in this office. There were different views regarding the scope, key indicators, and impact of the UK gender pay gap as well as the usefulness of reporting the data.
Gauging the audience: 10 days before the event, I launched a pre-meeting survey among all the employees invited. The questions aimed to provide insights into their knowledge, interest, and feelings about the UK gender pay gap. The results highlighted how much emotional background surrounds this topic. It’s not only about money. Words such as transparency, (un)fairness, equality, and bias strongly resonated with the respondents.
Getting a mentor to fill the gaps: I had the privilege to discuss the UK gender pay gap with the subject matter expert Michelle Gyimah (Gender Pay Consultant – Equality Pays). Michelle generously shared valuable insights on what makes a great UK gender pay gap report – and what doesn’t. (NOTE: If you don’t follow Michelle on LinkedIn, start now! Her short videos on this topic are always insightful).
Given the heterogeneity of the audience perspectives and expectations – and the request to keep it light and open – I favored a participative experience over a lecture for the 25 women and men that joined the meeting on-site and on-line.
Exchanging experiences: First, I shared my journey into becoming a diversity and inclusion advocate in tech (more at patriciagestoso.com/about). Then, I invited the attendees to a spectrum line exercise to gauge their level of agreement with the sentence “I’m comfortable discussing the UK gender pay gap”.
Replacing myths with truths: I challenged 5 myths surrounding the UK gender pay gap in tech
- Equal pay is the same that the UK gender pay gap: This one-minute video produced by Business in the Community explains the difference.
- The UK gender pay gap will fix itself : The comparison between the UK gender pay gap reports for the last two years shows (a) no significant improvement for UK’s largest companies and public sector bodies, and (b) the gender pay gap still remains a major issue in UK Tech as this article and this post highlight.
- The UK gender pay gap in tech companies is women’s fault because (a) they don’t pursue STEM careers, and (b) they leave their jobs for full-time motherhood.
- Explaining the low percentage of women working in tech exclusively as a reflection of the female/male ratio studying STEM careers is disingenuous. R&D departments in tech companies represent less than half of their headcount. Whilst it’s true that fewer women than men study STEM careers, women graduate from other disciplines that are also employed by tech companies (e.g. business, law, accounting, HR) at similar or higher rates than male students.
- As per the 2018 tack Overflow’s Annual Developer Survey, developers who self-identify as a woman or non-binary rank the office environment and company culture as their highest concern.
- The two top reasons thirtysomething women leave companies are better salary and improved career progression prospects, same as men.
4.- Fixing the UK Gender Pay Gap is a nice to have
- Women control 70% of household decisions and constitute 50% of the worldwide population, with a similar or higher number of women than men in all regions with the exception of South and East Asia and the Middle East.
- Enforcement of diversity targets to suppliers is becoming a reality. As an example, this article in the ExecutiveCounsel magazine highlights that “companies considering contracting with the US federal government must be prepared to demonstrate the diversity of [their] workforce”.
- The design and creation of products and services by a minority not only leads to subpar experiences for the other groups but also may impact their safety. This article by Caroline Criado Perez highlights examples where designs assuming “male” as the default fail to cater to women, some of them endangering their lives.
5.- Reducing the UK Gender Pay Gap at a company is only the purview of HR and executives: Company leadership may only see part of the picture. 164 HR executives surveyed by ICEDR ranked struggling with work-life balance or planning to have children as the main reasons women around age 30 leave organizations. As discussed above, both women and male millennials pointed to better pay and career progression as the top reasons to leave a job.
Co-creating the solution: I invited the attendees to a blue-sky thinking exercise where they imagined that they had a magic wand and could write our UK Gender Pay Gap report for 2019/2020. How would our gender pay gap metrics would look like? How would we have made it happen?
Call to action: We closed the session encouraging – and daring – the attendees to (a) join our diversity and inclusion employee resource group, the EuroNorth Dassault Systèmes Lean In circles, (b) engage in conversation with other colleagues on this topic, and (c) become an ally by championing women at the workplace.
Brenda Trenowden CBE, Global Chair of the 30% Club, advises to companies in this inspiring 13-min video that “there is no single silver bullet for fixing gender diversity […], you got to understand where your particular challenges lie”.
Our team did a great job of sharing their vision about tackling our UK gender pay gap. I look forward to sharing those insights with the other members of the EuroNorth Diversity and Inclusion Council to continue crafting our “silver bullets” to our present gender diversity challenges.
Thanks to Paige Gelder and Michelle Goodson for organizing the session, Bernie Tanner for the picture in this article, and all the attendees for stimulating discussions, before, during, and after the meeting.
NOTE: You can access the pre-meeting survey questions, the blue-sky thinking exercise, and further references here.
Originally published on LinkedIn on July 31, 2019.