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Expert comment on taking 217 years to close the gender pay gap

Posted by Warwick Business School at 02 November 2017, 14:15 CET |
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Expert comment on the World Economic Forum by Marianna Fotaki, of Warwick Business School, Professor of Business Ethics, who researches gender diversity issues.

Professor Marianna Fotaki said: "Cultural assumptions stereotyping women as less willing or able and historical patterns reflecting men's social power explain the persistent undervaluation of women's work.

"Behavioural ethics research also suggests that many such assumptions are due to an unconscious bias that both women and men share. Social psychologists have found that self-professed egalitarians may also be prone to such unconscious biases.

"These concern feelings and knowledge (often unintended) about their social group membership, for example concerning age, race/ethnicity, gender, and class. Power operates at a subconscious level and discrimination is often tacit and rationalised post-hoc.

"Unconscious bias, can in part, explain the propensity of many executives to hire in their own image, which reproduces the lack of diversity in companies' boards. But in organisations that adopt meritocratic policies, managers tend to favour a male over an equally qualified female employee and award him a larger monetary reward, perhaps because they no longer see the necessity to address the existing inequalities or for the fear of discriminating against men.

"Human resource departments have an important role to play in identifying and acknowledging such bias (via training) and addressing this in recruitment processes.

"Senior women and men who tend to be over-represented in top high-paid jobs should take steps to teach other women tactics and strategies that are most effective. Making pay scales explicit could also have a major impact on transparency in promotion.

"Legislative protection is important, but we should not assume that a convergence in men's and women's earnings will automatically continue into the future without organisations taking proactive measures."

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