CGP 12 | Career In Technology

Joysy John And Hana Abdi: How To Motivate Women To Find A Career In Technology

People who have a career in technology are only composed of 19% women. With this industry dominated by men, what can be done for women to get into this thriving community?

Sherry Bevan explores this subject further with Joysy John, CEO of 01 Founders, and Hana Abdi, Tech Leader at 01 Founders and the Founder of Bridge The Gap In Tech.

Together, they talk about the strongest motivating factors that push women towards a career in technology, ultimately finding their purpose and building a better world. They also talk about the most daunting barriers that limit women from becoming successful in this industry, from the lack of better opportunities to the stereotyping that these jobs are only for (bearded) men.

Free-to-access London coding school:

Bridge The Gap In Tech:

Joysy John on LinkedIn

Hana Abdi on LinkedIn

Listen to the podcast here:

Joysy John And Hana Abdi: How To Motivate Women To Find A Career In Technology

In this episode, we’re exploring what motivates women to start a career in technology and what the barriers are to attracting more women. I’m super delighted and excited to be talking to not one but two amazing women. First, I’ve got Joysy John who is the CEO of 01 Founders, which is a tuition-free coding school with a job guaranteed to improve diversity in technology and tackle the digital skills gap. The work that they’re doing is incredible.

We’ve got Hana Abdi who is the Tech Leader at 01 Founders, as well as the Founder of Bridge The Gap In Tech. We’re going to be talking about what motivates women and what will motivate them to have a career in technology. A warm welcome to you both, Joysy and Hana. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you so much for having us.

Let’s get started. I did a brief introduction there about 01 Founders. To set the scene for anyone reading, could you tell us a bit more about the work you do there?

01 Founders is a public-private partnership to address the digital skills gap. We are cofounded by one of the largest Effie College, Capital City College Group, one of the preeminent entrepreneur networks in Europe, Founders Forum and 01Edu who have over 25 years of experience in peer-to-peer learning pedagogy. In addition to these three cofounders, we also have founding partners such as Nominet, Peloton and Faculty, who are all keen to work with us to address the digital skills gap but also to improve diversity in tech. Hana is going to talk about what we are doing here on campus and how we are different from any other coding school or talent agency.

We help and bring people in that don’t have any background in tech. We welcome them with no qualifications. They come as they are. We give them the help and support they need to get to a middle or senior level in tech. We teach them languages such as Golang, JavaScript and Rust. We have a three-week selection pool where they come in, meet their fellow peers, work together, collaborate and be curious about technology.

CGP 12 | Career In Technology
Career In Technology: More women need to be encouraged to break into tech. They must attend more events, use various platforms to engage, and take advantage of different opportunities.

We facilitate different talks for them to try and get them interested and keen on the industry. Throughout those three weeks, they pick up key skills and experiences. Hopefully, they get put onto the selection pool once they’ve passed and done well. With a 1 or 2-year fellowship, they get the skills and the coding experience to become mid to senior-level developers.

In addition to the free learning, we also provide a job guarantee. When they finish their two years of learning, they have three options. They can either join one of our corporate partners as a software engineer, set up their own company and we will support the entrepreneurial venture or join our talent agency and work as a software engineer for any company that’s looking for talent.

What are the people that are being attracted to your course? Who turns up? What’s the gender and ethnicity split like?

It is a very diverse cohort. When you come on campus, that’s what you see first because 77% of our fellows are from Asian, Black and ethnic minority backgrounds and 36% are female. We still have a long way to go to get to the 50% gender target that we set ourselves. In addition to that, you’ll see that people who have come on this program, the age range varies widely as well. We have a nineteen-year-old and somebody in their late 50s as well.

It is about lifelong learning and finding people who have the talent but never got the opportunity. We’ve got people who dropped out of school or university and people who’ve got a Master’s in Cyber Security. It’s a wide range. 40% of our fellows had no prior coding experience but 26% of those had some background in Computer Science.

That sounds like an extraordinary cohort where you’ve got that incredible range of experience. Thinking back to when I did it as studies, it’s quite nice to have a mixed range of experience and knowledge in the group because the students will presumably be then supporting and helping each other to grow and develop.

If you don’t believe in yourself that you can learn, you’re more likely to give up. Be confident that you can learn.

From what I’ve seen, everyone has been working together regardless of how much experience they’ve had. The ones with a bit more experience have been helping the ones with the lower experience. It has been great.

What we’re talking about is you’ve got a range of people with no experience and loads of experience. I imagine therefore that you’re going to get that lovely environment where you’ve got the more experienced students who have already got some pre-existing knowledge and experience, helping and supporting those without any knowledge and experience at all.

We’ve created a body system to help the students that don’t have any coding experience to work with the students that do have coding experience. That has been working out great. We’ve also created a bunch of social events to get the students from the different cohorts and selection pools to work together. It has been good to have people with different experiences in bringing different things to the table.

When you’re bringing in people who have got that previously lived experience, it means you’re going to end up with a more diverse workforce. To come back to the gender split that you’ve got, we don’t need any research or studies to tell us. We only need to look around. It looks like that applies to your cohort as well that there’s a significant gender imbalance in technology. I would like to talk a bit more about that. Why don’t more women work in technology? What have you learned from your cohort?

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve seen so far has been the lack of female role models and lack of self-belief, trying to see people who are in these industries already and getting women into it. Most of these women that have come to the course have either had a long career break, childcare and various different things. They need that reassurance in permitting female role models and being visible faces of our company, which is the majority of our team are females. They’re seeing women in tech. They’re having conversations with us and seeing that they can do it.

Having support from their peers as well as us has been life-changing. I feel like more women need to be encouraged to break into tech, attend more events, use various different platforms to engage and get that support to encourage them, pull each other up and take advantage of different opportunities. I feel like 01 Founders is creating and opening doors for women to walk through and also building the confidence to have the selection pools so they can see that, “I can learn something new and I am trying. I am getting support and feeling my self-worth.”

CGP 12 | Career In Technology
Career In Technology: To inspire women to do things, they need the opportunity to have something flexible that works around them.

This process is building confidence. It’s not, “Start a university course and struggle through it for three years.” It’s, “Try to start for three weeks, build the self-confidence and self-worth, go through a two-year course and you can do it.” They start with something. We’ve had some women that have started but never opened a computer before. Now, she can explain algorithms to me and break down various different things. It’s life-changing.

It must be such a heartwarming project to be part of. I cannot imagine how good that makes you feel in the morning to go to work.

We were both emotional when we were calling up fellows to say that they had got through those three weeks of intense training. A lot of them didn’t think that they belonged here. We had a bus driver, a woman who had worked as a chef for seven years and another woman who had trained as a homeopath before and was new to this country.

There were so many people from such different backgrounds that felt they didn’t belong in tech but because they persevered and didn’t give up, it was amazing to see the progress that they had made. It was emotional when you feel that you can impact not just their life but their families and society at large. One of the women said to me, “I’m doing this not just for myself but for my daughter so she has an amazing role model.” That’s inspiring.

What have you noticed about what motivates women in their careers? Some of these women are having quite a significant career change. They’re going from homeopath to technology or from a chef to technology. What motivates them at work? What can we learn from that?

What motivates women is that they want to make an impact and a difference. That’s why a lot of women tend to be attracted towards medicine social work or other areas where they feel that they are making a difference. Due to media stereotypes where tech jobs are seen as a guy sitting behind a computer with poor hygiene and lots of facial hair, a lot of women don’t feel that they fit in. That’s the key factor. How do you make sure that you show enough role models but also communicate that it’s the best way to solve problems and make a big impact in the world?

That’s so true because there’s a lot to be done still to get over those stereotypes that some people have of the IT industry. You’re talking about women who want to make an impact, make a difference or have a purpose. I personally think technology is one of the best ways that you can have an impact because you’re always problem-solving, creating something new or troubleshooting. It’s a brilliant career. I have somewhat of a bias, having worked in technology all my life. Tell me more about how women can make an impact in technology. What are the ways that you would encourage women who might be reading this to say, “You can do that in technology with that as your career?”

Learning anything new is hard and challenging. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable, fail, and pick yourself up when things don’t work.

There are many ways that people can step into a career in tech. The first and foremost is building skills and that could be done by trying out some programs online. There are lots of free resources available. Take a tiny step to experiment, learn and see if that works but also come on campus and see what we are doing here. This is zero risk for you because it’s something as simple as playing a game online and then coming on campus for three weeks and learning with your peers. If it’s something that you don’t like or you’re not suited for this kind of learning or working then you have other options as well. That’s the first thing, build your skills.

The second thing is to build your confidence because if you don’t believe in yourself that you can learn, you’re more likely to give up. Be confident that you can learn. If Hana and I could learn it, I’m sure anyone can learn it. The final thing is to build your network. In addition to building your skills and confidence, you need to have a network so that you can find work placements, internships and full-time job opportunities. That would be my advice.

Building a community is huge. You can get resources and job opportunities. Having that network around you to build you up and you can ask questions to is crucial, especially as women in tech. Tech is so diverse. There are so many industries you can go and tell people every day. You can go into beauty, health, fitness or pet care. Some of my friends are working with dogs and they’re doing things in tech.

That’s the key. Technology is so diverse because technology runs the world at the moment. If you want to get involved in whatever it is that you’re fascinated by, you can still do that and have a good career in technology. What do you feel are the other barriers to attracting more women into technology? I’ve talked about the stereotypes. What else puts women off?

There are a number of barriers. The basic is access to Wi-Fi and a device because if you don’t have that, you can’t learn to code. The next level is willingness. Learning anything new is hard and challenging. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable, fail and pick yourself up when things don’t work. That’s the second barrier. You need to build your willingness and sometimes it’s hard to do it alone. That’s why you have such high dropout rates when you’re doing it online alone. Try and build your peer network. Come on campus and build your community. Hana’s Bridge The Gap In Tech Community is another example where you can find and connect with people who are going on a similar journey.

We work with underrepresented people in tech. I bridge the gap in tech to get them into opportunities, share free resources, do some coding practices with them and get them into jobs as well. I also think it’s the lack of opportunities as well. There are so many free resources out there but it’s the lack of opportunities for women. I feel like some of the courses aren’t as flexible and suited to women that have other things that they need to be doing, such as support needs. In order to inspire women to do things, it’s the flexibility and the opportunity for them to have something that’s flexible that works around them.

CGP 12 | Career In Technology
Career In Technology: Tech is so diverse. There are so many industries you can go from here, andnot just from a digital standpoint.

I love what you were saying, Joysy, about that willingness to feel uncomfortable. That’s such a key thing. Particularly, when you’re looking at changing your career or developing a new skillset, you have to accept that you’re going to go through that period of time where it feels scary or you don’t know what you’re doing. To have that willingness to feel uncomfortable, that’s a lovely way of phrasing it because we all go through that in everyday life in many respects.

I’ve loved talking to you both. It’s fascinating to hear what you’re doing at 01 Founders and the work that you’re doing. This is the first cohort that you’re running. This course is two years. Hopefully, at the end of two years, we’ll have some amazing people going out into the world, doing more with technology, which is fantastic. If people want to get in touch with you and find out more, how do they do that?

They can visit our website, or they can come to visit us on campus. We are right by Regent’s Park at Longford Street NW1 3HB. The best way to see what we’re doing is to come to meet the team and the fellows who are going through the learning.

Joysy and Hana, thank you so much for joining me. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I can’t wait to see what happens in two years’ time.

Thank you for having us.

I’ve enjoyed exploring what motivates women at work and the barriers to attracting more women to technology. If this conversation has sparked a thought in your mind then let’s talk and explore. A call with me gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talents so you can close the gender pay gap. Email me at to book your call. Thank you for reading.

Important Links:

About Joysy John

CGP 12 | Career In TechnologyJoysy is CEO of 01Founders, tuition-free coding schools with a job-guarantee to improve diversity in tech and tackle the digital skills gap

About Hana Abdi

CGP 12 | Career In TechnologyHana is the Tech Leader for 01Founders, as well as founder of Bridge The Gap In Tech

CGP 11 | Fujitsu

How Fujitsu Is Working Towards Closing The Gender Pay Gap With Rachel Marsh

There’s a lot of talk on how to close the gender pay gap but what are companies actually doing to make it happen? In this episode, Head of Digital Transformation, Rachel Marsh, shares what Fujitsu has been doing to stay ahead in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She chats with Sherry Bevan on what’s worked and what hasn’t on their end. Rachel also shares how they keep track of their progress and what other companies can do to continually empower and promote the closing of the gender pay gap. They also touch on flexible working, and their research on the ethnicity pay gap. Stay tuned and get value from this insightful discussion on how to become a more proactive and progressive organization for your employees.

Listen to the podcast here:

How Fujitsu Is Working Towards Closing The Gender Pay Gap With Rachel Marsh

In this episode, we’re going to be exploring some of the initiatives that Fujitsu has implemented in order to make progress on closing the gender pay gap. To do this, I’m delighted to be talking to Rachel Marsh, who’s Head of Digital Transformation at Fujitsu. We’re going to be looking at how Fujitsu has tackled the gender pay gap and the effectiveness of those initiatives. Rachel, very warm welcome to you. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you very much.

To get us started and to set the scene and put this into context, could you tell us a bit more about your role at Fujitsu?

I’m Rachel Marsh. I’m the Head of DX at Fujitsu. What does that mean? It’s around enabling digital transformation for our customers. We have a group of people who work with existing or new customers to provide insight, advice and guidance. What we were trying to do is work with our customers to see how we can inspire them to think and act differently, to deliver business and social impact through the innovative use of technology.

Sometimes that might be technologies we can bring, or they already have systems, services and operations, and it’s how they can expand that use. For example, getting better value out of the data they have to inform how they work, generating collaboration in the way they work across their business or their ecosystem, helping them implement change and transformation, and helping them roadmap where they’re trying to go. It’s anything in that spectrum. That’s what we do.

Since gender pay gap reporting was first introduced, I know you’ve made progress in reducing the gender pay gap. I’d love to hear from you about some of the initiatives you’ve tried and how they’ve worked.

We’ve made a decision to publish early. As soon as gender pay gap reporting came in, we were in the first 1% to publish. Our results at the time, we had a median gap of 17.9. We had a lot of work to do. Over the years, we have made improvements. We’ve published our latest report and we’re at 11.8%. It’s a significant reduction but still more to do. In terms of the changes, we’ve put in place a number of initiatives. Firstly, by doing the reporting, it means we’re measuring and tracking what we’re doing.

Work your way in consideration of the work you do, the team you’re a part of, the customer you’re on, and your own preferences.

We’re holding ourselves accountable to our employees and to the public. Putting that spotlight on it has helped in the first instance. We then set out an action plan that we have built on and developed every year. We focused on four areas around how we recruit, retain, enable, and also look across this pay specifically in terms of equality at different levels. Those four areas plus the data we drive help us determine the actions, measure those actions, and see the results and the outcome.

That increase or decrease depending on which way you look at them is a huge change. Although you look at the bare numbers, it maybe doesn’t mean much. In order to achieve that, you’ve put a lot of hard work into that. You’re right. The first thing you’ve got to do is to report and measure because you can only manage what you measure. What about some of the initiatives that you’ve tried? What’s worked well for you to help you reduce your pay gap?

A number of things. If we look at recruitment, sometimes we’re working with all of our supply chains in recruitment to try and get equal lists. We’re hiring shortlists that have equality of men and women in them to even consider into roles. We’ve looked at how we advertise our roles, the language we use, the style, and change them quite significantly. We now have a single standard template that all roles must use.

We’re reducing the number of bullet points, changing the language, the style and the description to be much more inclusive. We’ve also looked at our hiring managers and the hiring approach. We have done some training for our hiring managers to support them in it, but also looking at things like having mixed panels, more than a single person so that you have a much more balanced and inclusive view when you are recruiting.

In terms of retention, we’ve put a lot of effort into the programs we do to address women’s careers and support them so that we don’t get to a retention situation. Through all of our programs, we can see a real shift in that.

By April of 2021, our attrition for female roles dropped below that of men. We’ve seen that change. A lot of the changes over the last couple of years and our response to COVID have helped in that as well. We’ve been very flexible and supportive in that space. In terms of enabling people, we have a number of things running. We have a women’s business network that’s been running for a number of years.

CGP 11 | Fujitsu
Fujitsu: By doing the reporting, we’re measuring and tracking what we’re doing. We’re holding ourselves accountable to our employees and to the public.

We have executive sponsorship, co-chairs from the business. That’s very voluntary across the group. We have lots of initiatives. They will run events, training, get-togethers, networking sessions, and also some targeted programs.

We have two specific talent programs, one for our earlier career females. Those who are in the beginning are looking for more mentoring advice and guidance. That’s called Future Me, and one called Leading Lights, which is about helping women get into those more senior positions. All of those things together are adding up to making the change. Each year, we review what we’re doing, the impact it’s having, measure it and then tweak the next level.

You are constantly reviewing, refining, and continuing to do more to close that gender pay gap. What do you think has had the biggest impact? What’s made the most difference?

It’s a daily conversation now. It used to we want to have a program and initiatives, and it gets spoken about. Now it’s something that’s talked about all the time. It’s become a very common conversation. As an individual, personally, the things that have had an impact where I’ve either taken part or been a participant have been some of our talent programs. When I speak to people who’ve joined those, they’ve rated them highly.

For example, our Future Me program aimed at earlier career talent is recognizing the coaching and advice people might want, particularly for females. We’ve picked nine topics. It’s a structured mentoring program. It might be how to have your voice heard in meetings, networking, presenting, a number of those kinds of things where we can talk through. I’m a mentor in the Future Me program. I’ve worked with the ladies there. We talk through each topic. We share some actual insights, research studies, practical advice, and also about my own experiences. I’ll ask them about the situations they’re going through and explain what they might try.

The next time we meet, we’ll talk about the things they’ve tried and how did it work. It’s a supported learning journey around topics that we know have value at that point. The feedback there is good. We’re on another year of running that program. The Leading Lights program as well is supporting women to get into more senior roles. If we look at our gender pay gap reporting, where we can see the biggest impact for many companies is that the proportion of women in more senior roles is definitely smaller.

How can we support people in that career through the business? We have good figures at the lower ends, and we’re improving at the upper. How do we move through the middle of it is now going to be our next focus as well. It’s those specific talent programs. They’re more than just an event, it’s a continued conversation. It becomes very personal to the individual. Those are the things I get feedback from people. They are valued. More than anything, it’s the fact that this is a continuous and consistent conversation.

You mentioned there that it’s now become a daily conversation. It’s being talked about all the time. In other companies, I’ve heard people say that when it gets to that point, sometimes they worry about it. Is it going to turn people off having the conversation because it’s talked about all the time?

Certainly, that can happen. There have been points where you start feeling, “Is it too much? Do we need to ensure we’re looking across the rest of our populations?” We have a good program of initiatives across all types of diversity and support all talent in our business in how they progress. We’ve looked at how we have supporting conversations and change our performance management type conversations with every individual. We are making sure we’re trying to be balanced, but there have been times where you could see some of the reactions among people, both men and women of, “Is this too much?”

It’s about bringing it back to the personal value and the business value, and ensuring we are fair and equal. That way, we can stand up to, “Is it too much? Is it fair? Is it appropriate?” We have internal processes for let’s say somebody gets promoted or changed. In the paperwork you submit, ask the question, “What impact will this have?” Along the way, you’ll continue to be reminded to think about it. We make decisions without thinking about the broader consequences. When you then pause to think about them, it puts it front of mind, “Am I doing anything that helps or am I doing anything that’s detrimental?”

It’s those little constant reminders. People with the very best intentions will forget or do something that’s not quite appropriate, but it’s having those constant reminders to give you the opportunity to take that step back. With forced homeworking during COVID and locked down, how has that affected your gender pay gap or your female talent?

We’ve published reports every year. Our numerical results for 2021 are pretty much unchanged from 2020. We’ve had a drop of 0.2 on our median numbers and an increase of 0.1 on our mean. They’ve stayed the same, it has not changed. Considering the several months, to stay the same, I find it quite phenomenal. As a company, our response across the globe as an individual employee of the company was brilliant.

As an example, we already have policies in place to support carers’ leave. We instantly published that carer’s leave is available to everyone for whatever reason they need to take time off, whether it’s to look after children or elderly people themselves. Also, as soon as we rolled into January of 2021 and we realized we were going straight into another lockdown, day two of the year, there was another note out, “We’re going to do the five days again this 2021.” As a working mother with children in lockdown, I’ve had ten extra days of paid leave to support the carer’s leave during 2020 and 2021. For me individually, that’s a massive thing that’s helped.

We’ve also said straight away that everyone can work from home. As an organization, we’re a technology organization. As soon as it was looking likely, we started testing if that was going to be possible. It has been possible. All of our employees are operating fully from home. The approach from everyone was employee first, support our customers, everything else, don’t worry. That very flexible approach has continued. We’ve formalized it more now. A lot of companies have said, “You must come back to the office or you will work at home.”

Our stance, we call it Work Your Way. Every individual can decide what’s right for them. Also, a lot of the time, we might work with other teams or customers. It’s not just an individual choice. It’s a guided framework to look at, why do you need to connect, what do you need to be doing work-wise, and what’s your home situation. Not everyone has the home environment that supports that and personal desires. It’s that balanced view. You keep relooking at that through the year and making decisions that suit you, the work you’re doing, and the customer and team you’re a part of. That’s our approach going forward.

All of those things have meant that for everyone but also for working women, we’re seeing that approach of flexibility and support. Care has come out strongly. It’s come back in our employee engagement type surveys that employees have seen that increase in feeling cared for by the company and supported through this period. The fact that our reporting figures for 2021 stayed the same with everything else going on, I feel positive about what the last months have been like as an employee of Fujitsu and how they’ve responded.

It’s one of the key things moving forward as more organizations are following your approach to having that flexibility about how often you work from home. We see in the press that some organizations are having a very black and white, “You must be in the office five days a week. You must be in the office at least three days a week.” With organizations like yours who are taking that more flexible “work your way” approach, longer-term, it means you’re going to attract more of the best talent regardless of their gender or their ethnicity. People want that approach now from an employer.

You bring your whole self to work, and that is welcomed. That diversity of behaviour, thinking, and experience is valued.

In terms of the spread geographically, therefore, where you can appeal to employees and people are making choices. We’ve seen in the press in the market, people are making choices about where they live. As you go through your career, different choices are important to you according to what’s happening in your life at that point. The fact now is that you’re able to make more choices. I’ve got people who have moved near a family, moved away from cities, and changed their home base completely. People have changed the type of work. People are rethinking their careers in terms of training and development as well. All of those things are more possible. We want to show that we’re supporting that.

At the end of the day, we’re a business. We have customers to support, and it has to be done in context, which is why we’re not saying it’s black or white. We’re saying, “Work your way in consideration of the work you do, the team you’re a part of, the customer you’re on, and your own preferences.” In the meantime, our buildings and our locations, we’ve got a bit of a hub strategy in terms of key offices and buildings where we will have a presence. We are already refurbishing some of them moving to more collaborative working spaces. We’ve continued that program.

As we’ve started reopening our offices, we’re opening our main hubs first, and putting effort into some of the refurbishments in those areas as well. If I go into our London head office, there are hot desks available to book, but there are less desks because it’s more a place where you’ll go for meetings. There are more circular tables or meeting spaces rather than necessarily meeting rooms for more formal and informal types of working spaces.

These are the things we’ve done. If you do go in, it’s supportive. If you don’t, how do you mix the half in and half out? We’re working hard in terms of our hybrid space as well. With my own teams, we’re having team meetings. Some people are there. Some people aren’t. How can we make everything work so that everyone is still included? We’re not there yet but we’re all learning.

Some of what you mentioned there is reflected in the white paper that I’m publishing on the impact of the hybrid work model on the gender pay gap. It’s about looking at these things and being intentional about how you implement and what to implement rather than just being a bit more ad hoc about it. Fujitsu has done lots of great work over the past years to reduce that gender pay gap. What have been your key learnings?

That it is a continual and long process. It takes concerted effort. It’s also helped and it’s reflected in other areas. For example, we have published our ethnicity pay gap. We made the decision to publish early. The learnings of the work we’ve done over the years were able to apply to other areas as well as we continue to try and improve. We have a phrase, “Being completely you so that you bring your whole self to work.” That is welcomed. That diversity of behavior thinking experience is valued.

CGP 11 | Fujitsu
Fujitsu: The approach from everyone was employee first, then support our customers. Everything else, don’t worry.

What you’ve done at Fujitsu is great. You’ve been able to see those gaps close. It’s demonstrated to other organizations that if you set about making progress, you can achieve it even though perhaps at first it might seem like it’s hard work and that it’s taking time. How much you’ve reduced your pay gap bias is quite significant.

It has been good and it’s nice to see. It also shows we still got quite a way to go and we haven’t got it all right yet. We are continuing to work on our programs. We’re seeing a shift in our more senior positions but we’ve got a long way to go. For example, we’ve seen some women from our Leading Lights program, which was supporting those in the most senior and move into key leadership positions. We’re seeing promotion opportunities for those in the younger space. We measure those things. It takes time to see the results and the impact. It’s not attributable to the fact that they’ve been in a program. There’s so much more that goes on, but seeing the order of these things are adding up to making a difference.

We have to continue to do that work, particularly for our middle level, those quarters 2 and 3 of both salary or grading, however you look at it in your organization. That’s important that we keep doing that. Building more data, we’ve made a point over the years of enhancing the data that people are voluntarily able to add about themselves so that we can track more.

For example, with ethnicity, we’ve been pushing and sharing that people can add their ethnicity data. They don’t have to but we’re encouraging everyone to do it by talking about the reasons why and the value. We allow people to pick multiple categories and what they prefer not to say, or they don’t have to participate. Through giving examples, we’re encouraging all of these things that when we run programs and we’re in schemes, we’re tracking it all so that we have more data into helping us determine the next set of actions.

It’s fantastic and I’m very positive. To bring us to a conclusion, Rachel, if people wanted to get in touch with you and talk about what you’ve done at Fujitsu, how can they best do that?

I’m on LinkedIn. I’m happy to be contacted and continue this conversation. Fujitsu also actively tries and plays a part where we are keen to learn from other people. We’re happy to share the learning that we’ve gone through, both good and bad. We do not get everything right all the time. That’s a part of the continued conversation of helping overall the situation improve for everybody. It speaks to the values that the company have that we express in how we operate. That resonates for me personally. I’m happy to be contacted.

 Thank you so much, Rachel.

Thank you so much to my guest, Rachel Marsh, who’s Head of Digital Transformation at Fujitsu. I enjoyed talking about how Fujitsu has been tackling the gender pay gap and doing it successfully.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. You can find more episodes at If you are thinking about or you’ve already introduced a hybrid work model into your organization, you’ll find it useful to download a copy of my white paper that I’ve published on the website as well. If that sparks a thought in your mind, book an exploratory call with me and you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work I do at technology companies on attracting, developing, and retaining your female talent so you can close the gender pay gap.

Email me at to book your call. Thank you.

Important Links:

About Rachel Marsh

CGP 11 | FujitsuRachel is Head of Digital Transformation at Fujitsu.

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies

Recruitment Tips That Will Help You Attract More Women To Apply For Your Job Vacancies With Nicola Spooner

There has been a shift in organizations where the value of diversity in the workforce is now recognized. But how do we also shift our recruitment strategies to attract more women to apply for job vacancies, especially in male-dominated industries? In this episode, Sherry Bevan sits down with Nicola Spooner of Nicola Spooner Consulting to give recruiters tips on how to achieve just that. An expert in project management recruitment, Nicola has valuable insights on mitigating gender inequalities through your recruitment processes. Tune in and learn how these can help you drive your business forward!

Listen to the podcast here:

Recruitment Tips That Will Help You Attract More Women To Apply For Your Job Vacancies With Nicola Spooner

Thank you so much for joining me. I’d love for you to come back next episode and to make that even easier, you just need to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player. Let’s get into the show. In this episode we’re going to explore how to attract more women to apply for your job vacancies so that you start to close that gender pay gap. I’m delighted to be talking to Nicola Spooner of Nicola Spooner Consulting. She is an expert in project management recruitment and we’re going to be discussing how you can attract more women to apply for your job vacancies. Welcome, Nicola. Thank you so much for joining me.

Sherry, thanks for having me.

To set the scene, it might be helpful if you could just explain to us a bit more about what you do and that will set the scene for people and set the context of the discussions we’re having.

When it’s more recruitment business, we are focused on project management recruitment. What that generally means is we have a very male-dominated industry that we work in. Not only that but a lot of those projects are technology-related projects. That adds another dimension of gender inequality in terms of people that work in that space. I’ve been recruiting for many years and I’ve worked in lots of different areas. I did spend quite a long time focusing on HR recruitment, which was very female-focused. I’ve seen both sides of the gender side of that.

You’ve got loads of recruitment experience. One thing I noticed, recruiters and Talent Acquisition Managers, they’re often bemoaning the lack of women applying for roles because their company is asking them to provide a diverse shortlist. Yet, when I work one-to-one with female talent, who’s got the experience, the skills, they talk about the lack of opportunities available. It seems to me there’s a big disconnect between the recruiters and the female talent. I’m just wondering, is this something you’ve noticed as well?

Businesses as a whole, both recruiters and Hiring Managers have shifted away from any discrimination against women to a general positivity about wanting to attract women into their businesses. They can see the benefits of that diverse way of thinking and diverse approach to project management. You’re right. there is a bit of a disconnect because there are lots of businesses wanting to attract women into project management or technology project management specifically but then they don’t seem to be as many opportunities out there for women.

The real disconnect is around when women are looking for work, how they perceive those job adverts. There are hundreds of jobs adverts out there for project managers in a range of different industries. I feel that sometimes they’re not necessarily written in a way to attract the market that they’re looking to target.

That makes perfect sense. When you say they’re not written in a way to attract that target market, what could recruiters do to make sure those job ads are appealing to the female talent?

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies
Job Vacancies: A job ad is a sales document. It should speak to the target audience.

There are two things about it. First of all is the job ad itself. Traditionally, they’ve been a copy and paste of a job description because it’s quick, easy and it just gets it out there. There’s also a lot of adverts with a long list of bullet points of what criteria somebody needs to meet. That’s quite an old-fashioned way of attracting people to businesses.

Essentially, this is a sales document and it should be speaking to the target audience and it should be trying to attract people to that opportunity within that company, rather than having a list of a certain number of years experience, you must’ve worked with this technology or managed a team of X number of people. All of those criteria can put people off especially women who feel that they need to have achieved everything on the job description to want to apply. It’s a different approach that they have to job seeking. If companies look at that as a sales document to start with, that’s automatically going to attract more people to them, to speaking to the people that they want to attract.

The second point is around the language that they use. This is where it gets interesting because men and women are attracted to different words. When I first started in recruitment many years ago, we would look for people and target people, using words like assertive, dynamic, driven, confident and all of those strong words to try and find the people that we were looking for roles. What I’ve realized more is that those words do appeal to male applicants and put female applicants off. By changing the language that you use can open up those adverts to speak to women.

Interestingly, I did a bit of work on this for a Senior Manager for a project delivery team and I wasn’t finding any female applicants applying. It’s the more senior you go up and project management, the fewer women there are because there hasn’t been open to that for quite a while. What I found was by changing the language I used on the advert, very quickly, there were many more female applicants applying. I was using words like collaborative, honest, supportive, inclusive and trusting.

It attracted good-quality female applicants, which made a huge difference to that shortlist. The shortlist was much more diverse going forward. I’m one of those applicants who got the job and started and is doing a fantastic job there. Those words just appealed more to people or to females. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to put male applicants off.

That was what I was going to ask. You’ve ended up with a fantastic diverse shortlist. My question in my head, as you were talking is “What happens to the male candidates? Does it put them off,” but you’re saying it doesn’t?

By changing the language that you use, you can open up your job adverts to speak to women.

I did a poll on LinkedIn. I put four words out there to say, “Which one would appeal to you most when you are looking for a job.” I used collaborative, honest, self-sufficient and driven. Two of them were collaborative and honest, and I thought what would happen was women would say that and the men would say self-sufficient and driven. That’s not the outcome that I got. Significantly, more people went for collaborative and honest. Of those, they were 50/ 50 men and women split. When I looked at self-sufficient and driven, there were a lot fewer people that were attracted by those words and of those many more women.

I’m just wondering then, when you found that you got this diverse shortlist of candidates, which is fantastic, did you attract a different type of male project manager? Could you put your finger on something being different about those or it didn’t put men off so you still got the same quality of candidate to apply?

The quality of the candidate was really good. I probably did have a different style of candidates apply. The role itself was very much a man management role looking to coach, develop and mentor people. All of those words very much suited the style of person that would fit well in that role. It did attract a different type of candidate that I would normally purchase, a senior manager role within project management. That’s what we needed someone to be collaborative, empathetic and supportive of their team. By speaking to the people that you’re trying to attract, the hope is that you would attract better-aligned people to your role.

It seems to make great sense what you’re describing. You’re making sure that job ad is a sales document so that you’re selling the job and presumably selling the organization as well. I would just like to come back to the other question that you talked about. We talked about the language so words like collaborative, empathic are more likely to appeal to women. You mentioned as well about having that long list of criteria. Talk to me a bit more about that and how that influences the candidates.

It’s like a checklist. If I sent on a job description chances are, they’ll come back and say, “It looks great, Nicola but I haven’t done points 18, 19 and 20. I’m not sure I’m right for the role.” People want to feel that they can do the job but women approach that in a slightly different way to men. Most of the female applicants that I speak to like to think that they could go in on day one, be competent and capable of doing everything on that criteria list.

Whereas, the male applicants are happy, “I’ll give it a go and I’m sure I’ll be fine.” It’s because of that, if you do want to attract more female applicants and we’re talking now about shortlist, we’re not talking heavily about being the right person for the role but if they’re not applying in the first place and you don’t even get them in the mix to consider them, a list of criteria is just going to put people off.

I always think it’s good to imagine, you’re talking to somebody over a glass of wine or a coffee and telling them what that job is as you’re talking to a person. If you approach a job a little bit more like that then people can imagine themselves in the role a bit more rather than checking off a list of criteria, which quite honestly not all of it is going to be essential to deliver that role in a good way.

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies
Job Vacancies: By speaking to the people that you’re trying to attract, the hope is that you would attract better aligned people to your role.

I sometimes see on job ads some organizations will have essential and then desirable criteria. I know when I work with women on a one-to-one basis they’ll read these twenty different criteria for the role. They’ll then say to me, “I can’t apply for this job. It’s my dream job but I can’t apply because I haven’t got any experience of ABC and it’s difficult.” Does that apply equally whether you’re using essential and desirable criteria?

In my mind, you don’t want to be discounting people at this stage. As a recruiter, there are always people that will apply that don’t have the necessary experience with skills to deliver that role. I’m huge on transferable skills and giving opportunities for people in looking at the potential in people. Ultimately, they need to have some core ability to deliver roles, desirable or essential, the list just discounts people and good example is a global experience.

I do a lot of work with law firms and they’re implementing global technologies. A lot of people wouldn’t apply for a role if they didn’t have global experience. Now all the hiring managers that I would talk to would say, “It doesn’t matter about the global experience. We’ve got people on the ground and all of our regions that can do X, Y and Z. All they need to do is understand that’d be an added complexity to that piece of technology being delivered.” It’s on the job ad and job description as an essential. It’s putting people off when it’s just becoming an unnecessary blocker.

That’s an interesting one because having worked in a law firm previously myself, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I had global experience. We’re an international firm, so we had offices all over the place and any rollout that we did or any project that we were managing, inevitably, we were doing it across multiple offices and countries. Are there other criteria that get put on the job ad because it’s needed but not really essential like the global experience?

Legal experience is one that I come up with a lot. One of my favorite things to do is challenge hiring managers on why and look at transferable industries and experiences that can come to that. Several years of experience is another one. They must have between 3 to 5 years experience. That might fit into their brackets within their salary bandings or team structure. There’s no reason why someone with 6 or 7-years’ experience or more couldn’t do that role if they would be happy to.

All of these things can add up to a very quick, “That role is not for me,” but it could be a really good opportunity. Rather than trying to put off applying for that role so you just get people that take your perfect criteria list, why not open it up and tell people why it’s such a great company to work for? What they will get out of coming to work there? What opportunities are available for career progression? You’re talking to people who will then get excited about that opportunity and it could be the right person for the role. Their lists of criteria do put people up and stop people from applying.

I suppose it’s a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole that you try and squeeze yourself in. If you think that you’re not going to fit then it just puts you off.

You can’t just keep throwing salary at roles to attract people. There has to be more about it than that.

It absolutely does and everyone does. People want more diverse teams. They want diverse ways of thinking in their teams. Project management in technologies is quite a male-dominated industry. There are some good females coming up through the ranks. We want to encourage them to go for these more senior roles and to push themselves. On the flip side, as much as all the companies that can do around how they change the way they speak and attract people, initially there is that blocker that women do have, which is around not believing that they can take that next step up and do that challenging role. That’s another thing that’s a difficult thing to overcome.

I definitely say that in my one-to-one work, the number of times I’ve worked with women, they’ve seen their dream job and they think, “I don’t think I can quite apply for it because I’ve only got 7 years experience and they’re asking for 8 years’ experience” when 1-year experience is not going to make much difference. It often seems to me, that the hiring manager or the recruiter, it feels sometimes some of the criteria have been plucked out of the air.

I know that when you do get to talk to the organization themselves, I suppose it’s not enough thought has gone into that job ad. Women and men tend to have different ways of behaving and communicating. Women tend to want to be the perfect candidate before they put themselves forward but nobody’s a perfect candidate.

You’ve hit the nail on the head. They just approach it differently. There is a bit of responsibility for women to try and change their own way of thinking and look at themselves for doing that having a bit more of a growth mindset and challenging themselves. If you put it all together and you challenge yourself to apply for that role, even if you don’t meet all the criteria because the job ad is speaking to you a lot more personally. It’s making you feel like it’s a place you’d want to work in, a job you’d like to do, you could be successful in. If all of that comes together then you might end up with more applicants that would bring value to your business and deliver that role. It would be a more diverse shortlist as well.

We’ve talked about the job ad. We’ve talked about the language, the criteria that are used in making sure that you have a sensible list of criteria. You’ve talked about starting off by making it more of a sales document, what else can companies do to attract more female candidates?

It does come down to flexibility around working. It’s been fine for months. Businesses have been hiring. It hasn’t been an issue but it will be moving forward again in terms of flexibility around working hours and how that can fit in with people’s personal lives. A lot of businesses are quite savvy to that now.

As we start to going back to perhaps the work hours that we had pre-COVID, do you think some of the companies that are refusing to move or being obstinate in how they adopt or accept flexible work, those companies are going to be on the back foot and find themselves missing out on the best talent, male or female?

Absolutely. You’re right. It’s not just male or female. There are so many people that I speak to who have a better quality of life, a better relationship with their children. They’re not wasting hours and hours on commutes and still delivering great outputs. People has missed the interaction of being in the office. I do think that those firms that are open to a more hybrid way of working will ultimately attract better talent.

You can’t just keep throwing salary at roles to try and attract people. It has to be about more than that. That’s going to be a real driver moving forwards. The firms that I work with that have established a flexible approach are the ones that are able to attract a much wider range of people. They’re filling their roles quicker and getting better quality applicants.

At the end of the day, that means that they’re going to have a better level of service within the organization, whether they’re working with external clients or with internal clients. That flexible working and the policies that they might have around that, needs to be part of that sales document that you’re talking about, that the job ad ought to be.

If you put on the job ad out there that said, “A brilliant place to work related to career opportunity and great potential.” You then finish up by saying, “We have a flexible working policy of X, Y and Z,” people can apply and they know what they’re letting themselves in for. That’s a good point. You can be open about those working patterns and what your expectations are. That would work. That would help people make a decision as to whether it’s something they could accommodate in their lifestyle.

CGP 10 | Job Vacancies
Job Vacancies: Firms that are open to a more hybrid way of working will ultimately attract the better talent.

I know certainly in the past that women I’ve worked with, if the job ad doesn’t specify flexible working and there’s no mention of it on the company website, they don’t even bother to apply. They have made the assumption that it’s going to be tricky to get flexible working.

If it’s not on the job ad, when do you bring that up in the process. Too early on and it puts people off and then too late and you don’t want to waste a time if you can’t come to an agreement of how that could work moving forward. That’s when sometimes having a recruiter to help with that process does make a difference. When we’re applying for a job directly, there are heaps of questions that you want to answers to and you don’t always get them until quite later on. Whereas if you are working with a recruiter, you can fire 100 questions at us and we should hopefully know the answers. You’re absolutely right. If it’s not on there, it would put people off.

I’ve enjoyed talking to you, Nicola, about what we can do to try and address that disconnect between the recruiters who say that they don’t get enough women applying for roles, therefore, they can’t get the diverse shortlist and the women who are saying, “There aren’t enough opportunities available.” It seems like the opportunities are there. It’s just that they’re not appealing to the female talent that is out there in the marketplace.

You’ve hit the nail on the head there. There are lots of opportunities out there and a little bit of time and thoughts about how you might make that more appealing across both genders would help businesses and applicants.

Thank you so much for joining us. If people want to get in touch with you or to connect with you, how can they do that?

On LinkedIn, just Nicola Spooner. If you want to take a look at our website, it’s

Thank you so much, Nicola, for joining us. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. For our readers, thank you for joining me. I enjoyed our conversation. For more episodes on Closing the Gender Pay Gap, go to If this conversation has sparked a thought in your mind then please do book a call with me to have an opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work that I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talents so you close the gender pay gap. Email me at

Important Links:

About Nicola Spooner

CGP 10 | Job VacanciesNicola Spooner of Nicola Spooner Consulting is a recruitment expert specialising in recruiting in project professionals in the legal sector.

She helps law firms build their project teams, having built teams across the whole change and project management discipline, another male dominated sector.

CGP 9 | Imposter Syndrome

The Impacts Of Imposter Syndrome On The Gender Pay Gap And What To Do About It With Clare Josa

Imposter Syndrome is already an issue for leaders, but the stigma imposed by gender only amplifies it. This can manifest itself in your organization in many ways, one of which is through the gender pay gap. Today, joining your host Sherry Bevan is the leading authority on Imposter Syndrome in the UK, Clare Josa. She speaks on her landmark research study about Imposter Syndrome to clearly define the phenomena and its impacts on the gender pay gap. She also discusses concrete examples of how it affects employees and leaders in the workplace. Plus, Clare shares tips for companies on how to be more proactive in dealing with Imposter Syndrome to promote an equitable workplace and empower its workforce. Tune in to this insightful discussion to learn more!

Listen to the podcast here:

The Impacts Of Imposter Syndrome On The Gender Pay Gap And What To Do About It With Clare Josa

I’m excited, because in this episode we’re exploring how the imposter syndrome affects your gender pay gap. I’m delighted to be talking to Clare Josa. She is the UK‘s leading authority on imposter syndrome. She’s the author of eight books and an expert in the neuroscience and psychology of performance. Her original training as an engineer specializing in Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing means her inspirational approach is grounded in practical common sense, creating breakthroughs, not burnout. Naturally, we’re going to be talking about imposter syndrome and I hope you get something valuable from this to help you close your gender pay gap. Clare, welcome. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you so much for having me on the show, Sherry.

I’m delighted to have got you on because you’ve got so much experience but I’ve thought for those people reading, who maybe don’t know what we’re talking about when we refer to the imposter syndrome, perhaps you could start by giving us your definition of what it means.

Imposter syndrome is the secret fear that people are going to find out that we’re not good enough, that we’re faking it, that they made a mistake hiring us, that we don’t belong. It’s something that keeps us awake at 3:00 in the morning. I often define it with my clients, my students and my readers as the secret fear of others judging us, the way we’re judging ourselves. It’s different to self-doubt. What we found in the 2019 imposter syndrome research study is self-doubt is about what we can and can’t do. It’s about confidence, skills, and capabilities. Imposter syndrome is about who we think we are. It’s down there at the identity level, much deeper. Somebody running self-doubt might think, “I messed up that presentation.” If you’re running imposter syndrome as well, you’ll think, “What if they find out I’m not good enough?”

It’s that difference between who you are and what you think about yourself, your confidence in your skills and your experience.

I talk about the imposter syndrome gap as being the gap between who we see ourselves as being and who we think we need to be to do, achieve something or step up for a goal because sometimes we can run. That’s the self-sabotage of imposter syndrome kicking in. Sometimes we can’t. We build over that gap, what I call the bridge of coping strategies. How will I succeed despite imposter syndrome? It takes huge amounts of energy. It causes anxiety. It means that we’re hypervigilant, that’s fight-flight-freeze response is constantly engaged, looking for threats. We can cope most of the time but if something major comes up like pandemic, working remotely from home whilst juggling educating children or having to handle being the only one in the office when everybody else is remote. This thing can mean the previous dormant imposter syndrome comes out to play with gusto.

What led you to become an expert in this area?

I started out in Mechanical Engineering. My Master’s degree was in Mechanical Engineering. In Germany, you don’t get much more left-brain than that but I’d always been passionate about how people ticked. After fifteen years in engineering, I studied to become an NLP trainer. I moved to become the head of market research at one of the world’s most disruptive brands, which was great. That was the link between the engineers, the marketing team and the customers. It’s like a three-way translator. There came a point where I was studying more about how to help people change their lives, how to help them to help themselves. Looking at what I knew from Six Sigma about how to take the fluff out of those processes and make them more reliable and concrete. Back in 2003, I left, set up my own business. One of the things I was doing back then was executive mentoring.

Imposter syndrome is the secret fear of others judging us the way we’re judging ourselves.

My first client had this weird thing. They were confident. Everybody thought they had the act together and it was 3:00 the morning they were dying inside. My next client and then my next client and it got me researching what is going on. The coaching skills I’ve learned weren’t touching it. I needed something deeper. That was several years ago. The rest is they say is history. I have spent the last several years specializing in the imposter syndrome work that classic tools don’t touch.

We talked about what the imposter syndrome is but what we haven’t talked about is who experiences it. Who has it?

Everyone. There’s no it’s men, it’s women. There’s no you’re old, you’re young. We found in the 2019 research study that 52% of female respondents had struggled with it daily or regularly in 2020 alone, to an extent that it impacted their work and their home life. The figure for men was 49%. Pretty much the same. The difference was how they handled it. Women were twenty times more likely than men to go and talk to someone to ask for help. Men were five times more likely than women to turn to alcohol, drugs and medication to push on through. The other huge thing and this is relevant to the gender pay gap, the male respondents tended to do that feel the fear and do it anyway thing. Pushing it down, pushing on through, “I’m terrified. It’s causing me anxiety. I’m drinking too much but I’m going for that promotion anyway.”

They would get to that stage. When they got promoted, very often, the job title gave them the external validation they needed to mean that they could settle into it. What we found with the female respondents is they would hold back stepping up. They would even volunteer other people if they got the tap on the shoulder to go for the next role. Thirty-seven percent in 2020 alone had not asked for a pay raise they knew they deserved as a result of imposter syndrome.

Sixty percent we found were routinely not taking credit for what they’d achieved, even doing that classic, “I had but,” if they were praised volunteering self-criticism, meaning that they want not to top of mind for those promotions and opportunities. They were not letting their light shine because, for them, the emotional side of imposter syndrome was simply strong. It held them back. It caused them to subconsciously self-sabotage rather than step up to the next level and pushing on through it for them was much less of an option.

I was about to ask, what did your research tell us about how imposter syndrome affects the gender pay gap? You answered it succinctly there but what more does your research tell us about the imposter syndrome and the gender pay gap and how it has an impact?

We found that there were three hidden drivers of the gender pay gap, which most organizations aren’t aware of, they can’t address. One of them was the alpha male competitive culture at the most senior levels in too many organizations still. There comes to a point where if a woman gets promoted beyond that level, she either has to change how she behaves to become more of a man or she has to find ways to cope with being in a highly competitive alpha male environment.

Even some of the most heart-centered organizations I’ve worked with in those top couple of levels, it’s suddenly a complete culture change. Women don’t feel like they belong. They feel that fear of, “What if they realize they made a mistake hiring me or putting me in this role?” They also found at those senior levels that the spotlight that was on them for being a female in that role rather than a person in that role meant that their secret fears of, “What if they realize I’m not good enough?” It was like having a supernova shining on them. That was one aspect.

CGP 9 | Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome: Imposter syndrome is the secret fear that people are going to find out that we’re not good enough, that we’re faking it, that they made a mistake hiring us, that we don’t belong.


The second factor that was driving the gender pay gap that we found was the lack of flexible working. The expectation that at the more senior levels, you’re going to do the longer days, you’re going to do the overnight when we can travel, that you’ve got to wave goodbye to school concerts and all that thing. Many women felt they didn’t want to have to choose. Even if a company offered flexible working because you’ve got this internal dialogue where you’re judging yourself and you’re worried that others are doing it too. If you accepted the flexible working, you were worried that people were judging you and that somehow would see you as not pulling your weight not being good enough. That was factor two. Factor three was all of the self-sabotage that comes in there from imposter syndrome.

If you imagine, you’re going to step up to a leadership role, you’re going to take responsibility and you are going to be visible at that level. If it’s 3:00 in the morning, you’re lying awake and your inner critic is telling you all the reasons why you’re not good enough, it’s extremely hard to feel congruent and safe doing that. One of the other things we found is that at senior levels, women were likely to apply for a promotion externally to leave a company they love because they were scared of what they perceived as the shame of failure if it became public knowledge that they’d gone for a role that they then didn’t get.

I hear that with a lot of technology companies, where women have applied for promotion and not got it. They’ve then left the organization or they haven’t even applied internally because they’re worried about failing in their eyes. They decide to go for that promotion outside the company, which means you’re losing good female talent.

Somebody else is gaining from the hard work that you’ve put in working with that person and developing them over those years.

We’ve got these three hidden drivers that often companies aren’t particularly aware of. If they’re hidden and you don’t know you’ve got them then there’s not an awful lot that you can only manage what you can see, can’t you?

It’s one of the reasons why I’m passionate about this and my podcast that you are sharing is important because secretly, we know if we have an alpha male culture at the senior level. We will never admit it to the shareholders and we don’t have to wash our dirty linen in public but we know. Secretly, we know whether we’re expecting our leadership team to work hours. That means they’re choosing between career and children, loved ones, care, responsibilities or having a life. By raising the awareness and asking the question, if we were honest, we took our emotions and our biases out of this, are any of these three factors at play? With that third factor of imposter syndrome, there’s something that a lot of companies have been doing that is well-intentioned but it’s making it worse, which is giving women that helping hand. It will seem as quotas or positive discrimination and it’s not being phrased like that.

If you take somebody who secretly believes they don’t belong, that a mistake was made hiring them, who’s scared they’re going to be found out as not good enough and a fraud and you give them that pushups the next level then it amplifies those feelings. They can then look around. I remember when I had imposter syndrome in my engineering days, I was promoted extremely young to senior engineer. The rumor that went around the factories are, “She got the job because she’s a girl.” My imposter syndrome meant I believed it. It can undermine the integrity and respect of female leaders if you are in any way saying to have given them the advantage. I talk about equity instead of equality.

There was a fantastic meme on social media. The dad taking two children to a football match. One was older than the other they couldn’t see over the barrier. The dad got two equal boxes. One child could see over, the other one still couldn’t. Equity is giving that second child the box that they need so they can both see but this does not come in the form of quotes and positive discrimination. It comes in the form of, what does this person needs to be able to thrive? Do they need support in ditching imposter syndrome? Do they need us to put serious work into the flexibility of hours? Do they need us to create a senior-level environment and culture where anybody can thrive with God as if their gender, their ethnicity, their socioeconomic class? Looking at what you need to do to create equity so that it’s fair for everybody rather than giving people that helping hand creates this feeling of resentment.

Make asking for help with imposter syndrome as acceptable as asking for help with Microsoft Excel.

I’ve got clients where there were men who thought they were about to get the next promotion. A woman then got it out of the blue. Everybody knew it was because they’d been told they had to have a quote on the board. That woman had to leave because nobody would respect her authority, even though she might have been the best candidate. We have to be careful at how we handle this, how we communicate it and how we’re being seen to be fair.

What can companies do then in practical terms to stop that imposter syndrome affecting the gender pay gap?

One of the first things is that we need to be training leaders in imposter syndrome in being able to spot the signs. We’re good at hiding it when it’s running because we feel ashamed. It’s an identity level. It’s about who I am as a person. We put a lot of effort into hiding it. By the time we ask for help with it, it means it’s got to a stage where that bridge of coping strategies is no longer enough. It takes courage. Training managers to be able to spot the warning signs. For example, one of the things I do is I train imposter syndrome first status in an organization so they can be a point of contact because it’s removing the taboo. I’m on a mission to make asking for help with imposter syndrome as acceptable as asking for help with Microsoft Excel macros.

Nobody would think twice if they suddenly had to do something complex on Microsoft Office but saying, “I need training on that.” We need to get there with imposter syndrome because it can lead to mental health issues, anxiety, depression, stress, burnout. It can trigger all of these. Having that HR, in-house coaches, leaders, line managers, having the basic awareness, having key points of contact in the business who can help, you can do more than just offer tea and sympathy. Also, having programs that give people practical tools because not everybody needs a full-blown, “Let’s dive in and deal with imposter syndrome.” Sometimes it might be training in how to choose which thoughts to feed. How to be able to press pause on that inner dialogue? I have my Inner Critic Bootcamp program that they can study for that in six weeks, which helps to stop the cycle.

Sometimes they might want to dive in more deeply and work with somebody. You might want some in-house mentors who’ve trained in the deeper work to clear out imposter syndrome particularly if you have people who are stepping up from line management to leadership roles. What triggers imposter syndrome particularly is any shift in identity. For example, becoming a parent, returning from maternity leave. We see it a lot with university students when they graduate. Becoming a leader, a shift in identity opens up that imposter syndrome gap between who you see yourself as being and who you think you need to be. Actively putting imposter syndrome clearing programs into your leadership development strategy, meaning that anybody who is running it without shame, without taboo, without judgment can have a route they can follow that says, “I want to clear this out.” They get to fulfill their potential.

One of the things that happen if somebody gets promoted because part of them is saying, “I want to do this role.” Part of them is screaming, “What if they find me out?” They can turn into a micro-managing boss in as little as a few weeks. The symptoms, the stress, and the anxiety of imposter syndrome can be pushed on down through the team quickly. It can turn a rising star into someone that’s creating a toxic team without even realizing.

Which is another big issue for organizations because that will create other employee engagement issues and employee retention issues.

If anybody in that team was running imposter syndrome, they were at the coping stage and it was dormant then it can trigger it for them as well. In terms of the gender pay gap, having that clear strategy is yes, you would give your team members the development they need to get ready to be leaders. That is not just the practical external strategies. That also has to be the inside work so that they can let go of whatever might be holding them back from becoming a leader that inspires people to thrive and create successful, happy teams.

CGP 9 | Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome: It can undermine the integrity and respect of female leaders if you are in any way saying to have given them the advantage.


This is what we all want at the end of the day because it means that you improve productivity, profitability and your reputation as an employer in the workplace. I’ve enjoyed talking to you about this. I know I could talk all day on this topic because your knowledge and expertise are valuable. If people want to get in touch with you and find out more about what you do, how can they get hold of you?

The research study white paper that might be useful for readers is at I’m on LinkedIn, @ClareJosa. There’s only one of me on normal days. My main website is That’s where you can find all resources. I’ve got things like an advice guide that can be useful for someone who does have imposter syndrome. That’s completely free. That’s at That helps you to know what to say, to know which mistakes to avoid and to be able to start supporting that internal discussion to remove the imposter syndrome taboo and get people to support that they need.

Thank you so much to my guest, Clare. I’ve enjoyed talking to you about imposter syndrome and how this can impact the gender pay gap. I hope you, as readers, have enjoyed reading this episode, too. Thank you so much, Clare.

Thank you so much, Sherry.

If this has sparked a thought in your mind, I’d love you to come and book an exploratory chat with me to give you an opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work I do at technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talents that you can close the gender pay gap. Email me at to book your call. Thank you for reading.

Important Links:

About Clare Josa

Clare Josa is the UK’s leading authority on Imposter Syndrome, the author of eight books, and an expert in the neuroscience and psychology of performance.

Her original training as an engineer, specialising in Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, means her inspirational approach is grounded in practical common sense, creating breakthroughs not burnout.

CGP 8 | Gender Pay Gap Initiatives

Initiatives And Actions You Can Do To Close The Gender Pay Gap

Some women still get paid less than men for the same work in a company. That’s the hard truth that’s still happening nowadays. In this episode, Sherry Bevan gives a broad overview of all the different approaches used by organizations that want to strengthen their female talent pipeline to close the gender pay gap. She dives deep into various initiatives and actions that you can take in your organization, based on whether the evidence tells us it works or not.

Also in this episode:

  • Your last chance to book a place on the Executive Round Table on Tuesday, 5 October!
  • A brief summary of the four main causes
  • A tour of the initiatives to close the gender pay gap based on the paper published by the Government Equalities Office

Listen to the podcast here:

Initiatives And Actions You Can Do To Close The Gender Pay Gap

Thank you so much for joining me. I would love you to come back next episode. To make that even easier for yourself, you need to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player. I don’t know about you but I’m noticing more and more people going back into the office. The trains and the roads are busier, and I’m hoping that means that the local businesses who rely on the commuters are starting to feel that pressure ease up too.

As to me, I’m super excited about what’s coming up in October 2021, and especially when I’m hosting an executive round table on the impact of hybrid working on the Gender Pay Gap in the technology sector. Visibility in the workplace has always been important, having that strong personal brand so that you develop a professional reputation has been an expert in your domain or your field.

Although, we do know that in some organizations or even in some teams, visibility in the past and now as well has also been about presenteeism. What we do know is that the hybrid work model is most here to stay. We also know that those more likely to want to work from home in that hybrid work model are people with disabilities, parents of young children, and women. I’m wondering, how will hybrid working affect the visibility of women, in particular, in your organization?

Does it mean they’ll be less likely to get noticed because they’re more likely to be working from home, to get promoted or to move up the career ladder? In turn, how will that affect your gender pay gap? These are some of the questions that I’m going to be discussing with a small group of HR leaders from other technology companies, including Sky, Microsoft, Sage, so that together we will have the opportunity to learn from each other about what’s working and what’s not in the hybrid work model and discuss the potential impact on the gender pay gap. There is still about time to get involved.

If you’d love to join us on the 5th of October 2021 at the executive round table, reach out to me. For now, let’s get into the show. In this episode, I wanted to give you a broad overview of all the different approaches and initiatives that are used by a whole range of organizations that want to strengthen their female talent pipeline so that they close the gender pay gap. Before we look at the different initiatives that you could implement, first, let’s take a couple of moments to think about the main causes of the gender pay gap.

Four Main Causes Of Gender Pay Gap

If we look at papers published by The Fawcett Society, they suggest that there are four main causes and these are discrimination, unequal caring responsibilities, a divided labor market, and men in the most senior roles. If we start by looking at discrimination, it’s illegal but some women still get paid less than men for the same work. There’s a lot of discrimination, particularly around pregnancy maternity leave. Pregnant Then Screwed estimates at 54,000 women lose or are forced to leave their jobs every year, simply for getting pregnant.

CGP 8  | Gender Pay Gap Initiatives
Gender Pay Gap Initiatives: When you put together a short list of qualified candidates, whether you’re recruiting for a new hire or working on your promotions round, make sure that more than one woman is included.

There’s research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in partnership with the Department for Business in 2016. That showed that more than 3/4 of pregnant women and new mothers, that’s the equivalent of 390,000 women, experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year. That is 1 of the 4 main causes of the gender pay gap.

The next one to think about then is unequal caring responsibilities. Women play a greater role in caring for children, as well as for sick or elderly relatives. As a result, more women work part-time. We know that part-time jobs are typically lower paid with fewer opportunities to make progress in your career. In the divided labor market, women are still more likely to be in low-paid and low-skilled jobs affecting labor market segregation. Eighty percent of those working in the low-paid care and leisure sector, for example, are women.

You might think that this divided labor market doesn’t affect the technology sector but I encourage you to go back to the interview of Jo Stansfield in episode four when we talked about the hierarchy that exists in the technology sector with women more likely to be in the lowest status roles. The final cause is men in the most senior roles. Men make up the majority of those in the highest-paid and most senior roles. For example, only 5% of FTSE 100 CEO are women.

What You Can Do

That’s a brief overview of the four main causes of the gender pay gap, but what can you do about it to close the gender pay gap in your organization? First and foremost, you don’t close the gender pay gap by simply focusing on pay. It’s more complicated than that. In my experience, there are three key areas to look at, how you attract staff, how you develop those staff, and retention, so how you keep and engage those staff. The thing is you can’t do everything at once. It’s important to prioritize where you’re going to spend your time, energy and budget.

Perhaps one of the most important things in order for any initiative to be successful is to get the support and the buy-in at the most senior levels of the organization. You can do that by demonstrating the business benefits. How does it affect profitability, productivity and reputation? There are lots of business benefits to increasing gender diversity and inclusion but we’re not going to be looking at those. We will look at those in a future episode.

While I could break this down into how you attract, develop, and retain your female talent, I’ve wanted this episode to be much more action-focused. What I’m going to do is I’m going to share the learnings from a fabulous resource that I highly recommend on the government website published by the Government Equalities Office. If you’ve got time to read it, I encourage you to start with the paper called Reducing the gender pay gap and improving gender equality in organisations: Evidence-based actions for employers.

In order for any initiative to be successful, it has to get the support and the buy-in at the most senior levels of the organization.

Initiatives That Work

First, I’m going to talk through the actions and initiatives where there are published quality evidence that these initiatives work, which means that you start to close your gender pay gap when you start to implement these initiatives. This is from the published research, the actions that are known to have had a positive impact in the real world.

The first thing then is to include multiple women in the shortlist for recruitment and promotions. This initiative then is about ensuring that when you put together a shortlist of qualified candidates, whether you’re recruiting for a new hire or you’re working on your promotions round, you need to make sure that more than one woman is included. What we do know from the published research is that a shortlist with only one woman doesn’t increase the chance of a woman being selected. It’s about having multiple women on those shortlists.

Number two, then is about looking at using skills-based assessment tasks in recruitment. Rather than relying only on interviews when you’re recruiting, what you can do is to ask candidates to perform tasks that they will be expected to perform in the role that they are applying for. You then use their performance on those tasks to assess their suitability for the role. What’s important is that you standardize those tasks and how they are scored to ensure fairness across candidates. That one is about using skills-based assessment tasks in recruitment.

Sticking with the recruitment and promotion idea then, the next idea for you is to use structured interviews for recruitment and promotions. As an HR professional, you know that structured and unstructured interviews both have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, it’s much more likely that unfair bias will creep in and influence decisions in an unstructured interview.

Whereas if you go down the structured interview route, this will ask exactly the same questions of all the candidates in a predetermined order and format. It means that you can grade the responses using a pre-specified, standardized criterion. That means that the responses are comparable and you reduce the impact of that unconscious bias. Staying with the attraction theme then, the next one is to encourage you to encourage salary negotiation by showing salary ranges on your job ads.

We know that women are less likely to negotiate their pay. As a leadership consultant, when I work with women on a one-to-one basis, salary negotiation, the when, the how, and the if always comes up. There are lots of reasons why women are less likely to negotiate on salary. It’s partly because women are put off because if they’re not sure what a reasonable offer is, they don’t negotiate.

CGP 8  | Gender Pay Gap Initiatives
Gender Pay Gap Initiatives: Women are less likely to negotiate their pay. It’s partly because if they’re not sure what a reasonable offer is, they don’t negotiate.

Therefore, you can make a difference by clearly communicating the salary range on offer for a particular role to encourage women to negotiate their salary. This helps your applicant know what they can reasonably expect. In addition, if the salary for a role is negotiable, you need to state that clearly because that can also encourage women to negotiate. When women don’t negotiate and they end up with a lower salary, it means that longer-term, they’re going to end up with smaller bonuses and pay rises, which are typically done as a percentage of that start salary.

If women negotiate their salaries more often, they’ll end up with salaries that more closely match the salaries of men. That means that you’re going to have an impact on your gender pay gap. The next one then is to think about introducing transparency to the processes for promotion, pay and reward. Transparency means being open about those processes, your policies, and the criteria for decision-making, which means that employees are clear about what’s involved and that managers understand that their decisions need to be objective and evidence-based because those decisions can be reviewed by others.

When you introduce transparency to promotion, pay, and reward processes, it can reduce pay inequalities, which means that in turn, you’ll start to close your gender pay gap. The final one in this section on what we know has a positive impact, it’s about appointing diversity managers and/or appointing or creating a diversity task force. Diversity managers and task forces monitor the talent management processes, such as recruitment or promotions, and also diversity within the organization.

Having a diversity manager or a task force can reduce bias decisions in recruitment and promotion because people who make those decisions know that their decisions may be reviewed. It’s that accountability that can improve the representation of women in your organization. When you’re thinking about your diversity managers, there should be somebody who has a senior or executive role within the organization. They need to have visibility of your internal data, and they need to be in the position and have your authority to ask for more information on why decisions were made so that they feel empowered to develop and implement diversity strategies and policies.

Initiatives That Show Promise

Let’s move on to think about the actions that from the research, they have promise but they need further research to get more evidence on their effectiveness and implementation. The first one is to think about improving workplace flexibility for men and women. Advertise and offer all jobs as having flexible working options, such as part-time work or remote working, or hybrid working, job sharing, or compressed hours. The more that you talk about your flexible working policies, the more likely that women will fly in the first place. Often, when I work with women on a one-to-one basis, if flexible working doesn’t get mentioned anywhere on the company’s website or anywhere on the job description, they will often talk themselves out of even applying.

Allow people to work flexibly where it’s possible so it’s not just a policy but it’s happening on the ground, so to speak. Encourage your senior-level leaders to role model working flexibly, and to champion flexible working. If they work themselves flexibly, encourage them to talk about it so that others see that this is a normal way of working, even if you’re in a senior position. Finally, workplace flexibility is about encouraging men to work flexibly that it’s not seen as a female-only benefit. It’s not just something that women want.

The gender pay gap widens dramatically after women have children. This could be reduced if men and women share childcare more equally.

The next one in this section then is to encourage the uptake of shared parental leave. We see that the gender pay gap widens dramatically after women have children. However, this could be reduced if men and women were able to share childcare more equally. Shared parental leave and pay enable working parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay in their child’s first year. The actions that show promise here are when organizations offer enhanced, shared parental pay at the same level as enhanced maternity pay or when they encourage the take-up of shared parental leave.

For example, when you inform future fathers that it’s their legal right to request shared parental leave. When you provide future parents with guidance and personal support, to understand the scheme, and when you share and promote examples of senior leaders who’ve taken shared parental leave in your organization. That one was all about encouraging the uptake of shared parental leave. Following on from that, it’s about recruiting returners. Returners are people who’ve either taken an extended career break for caring or for other reasons and are either not currently employed, or maybe they’re in roles for which they’re overqualified.

When you recruit returners, things that you can do, for example, is to target places where returners are likely to be looking, ensure that your recruitment processes are returner friendly, and offer support before and during the assessment. Remember, these people who’ve taken an extended career break may have lost a bit of confidence but they certainly haven’t lost the skills and the knowledge.

The next one then is to think about offering mentoring and sponsorship. They’re quite similar. Mentors provide guidance and advice to their mentees, while sponsors support the advancement and visibility of the person that they’re sponsoring.

There is some evidence to suggest that mentoring programs work very well for some women but not for others. At the moment, it’s not clear based on the existing evidence whether sponsorships are more effective than mentoring, or whether it’s the other way around, or how best to run mentoring and sponsorship programs so that they’re effective and they make a difference. There’s not enough evidence right now to make a recommendation one way or the other.

The other thing that you could do and offer some promise is to offer networking programs.

There was some evidence that suggests that formal networking programs where members meet and share information and careers advice can be helpful for some women but not every woman. There’s more work needed here to understand the effects of networking programs or other diversity programs, and whether they need to have particular features in order to be successful in helping you to close your gender pay gap.

Finally, set internal targets on the basis that you can only manage what you measure. You need to set internal targets, so equality goals and these goals need to be clear and realistic.

You need to be able to track your progress. You could have a generic, overarching goal such as improve gender quality at my organization or reduce my organization’s gender pay gap but those aren’t specific. Therefore, they’re more likely to be unsuccessful. One way of increasing the likelihood that you reach your goals and that you will do something to improve gender equality and close that gender pay gap is to set very specific time-bound targets. What change will you achieve? By when will you achieve it?

CGP 8  | Gender Pay Gap Initiatives
Gender Pay Gap Initiatives: One way of increasing the likelihood of reaching your goals and doing something to improve gender equality and close that gender pay gap is to set very specific time-bound targets.

Initiatives With Mixed Results

In this final section then, I’m going to share those actions or initiatives that have some mixed results. The jury is still out because sometimes the result is positive but sometimes it has a negative impact. As yet, there’s not enough evidence to say for sure, whether that’s down to the way it’s been implemented or whether there’s something else at work here.

The first thing that we’re going to look at are unconscious bias training or diversity training. Unconscious bias training is often where a new organization starts. It’s easy, practical and tangible but it can sometimes be seen as a bit of a tick-box exercise. “We’ve done unconscious bias training. We’ve done our bit.”

The thing with unconscious bias is it can influence a person’s judgment without them even being aware of it. Unconscious bias training in the workplace aims to make people aware of those potentially harmful unconscious biases and to reduce the impact of those biases. While some types of unconscious bias training may have some limited positive effects, there is no evidence that this training changes behavior or improves workplace equality. Certainly, there’s no evidence that it does this on an ongoing or a permanent basis. It’s like everything. We learned skills, but then we need to practice those skills so we’d learn about unconscious bias, but then we need to practice listening and becoming aware of our unconscious bias.

Again, when we look at diversity training, that can help raise awareness but it’s unlikely to change behavior. It’s only through changing behavior that you’re going to start to close your gender pay gap. There’s been some research in the US that has found that mandatory diversity training either doesn’t change the number of women in management positions or reduces it. In other words, it’s backfiring.

This might be for a whole number of reasons. Is it that people resent being made to do something and so don’t take the training seriously? The training might also bring to mind some unhelpful stereotypes, which people then act upon but it might be that the training makes people think that the organization has now solved its diversity problems. “We’ve ticked the box, now we’re good.”

Another aspect of training that organizations will often embark on is leadership development training. Leadership development programs aim to teach qualities, including management skills, self-confidence. Certainly, in the leadership development training that I do, we look at networking and how to articulate your ambitions. There are some very small-scale studies of the effects of leadership training programs, women, particularly in medicine and academia.

However, there’s no high-quality evidence that such programs definitely help women progress. Sometimes people feel that these programs imply that the women themselves are the problem. It’s not about fixing the women. It’s about fixing the culture and the work landscape. While leadership development training can be a fantastic initiative to introduce, it doesn’t necessarily, based on the evidence, translate itself into hard results in terms of closing your gender pay gap.

Performance self-assessments. In terms of performance in the workplace, there is some evidence that women underestimate their abilities or that they’re more conservative in their assessment of their abilities than men are.

Unconscious bias can influence a person’s judgment without them even being aware of it.

The size of this gender difference can vary depending on the type of performance that people are asked to self-assess. There’s not enough evidence to know how differences in self-assessment affect women’s progression at work. However, if this is something that you’re interested in, I do encourage you to read episode five, in which I interview Shirin Nikaein about how performance feedback affects women’s career progression. Again, in episode six, when I explore how performance self-assessment has an impact.

The final initiative that I’m going to talk about, diverse selection panels. Again, not enough evidence yet to say definitively, whether this will have a positive impact but it does seem that having a selection panel with a mix of men and women seems to help women’s prospects sometimes but, and here’s the kicker, sometimes a mix selection panel or a diverse selection panel hums women’s prospector other times. Some studies show that the more women there are on a panel, the more likely women are to be selected for a role, while unfortunately, some studies find the complete opposite. The effect can also depend on the role being recruited for or the role of the women who are on that panel, who are on that selection committee.

There’s not enough research at the moment to understand the conditions under which a diverse selection panel is or isn’t effective for improving gender equality and, in the long run, closing the gender pay gap. That’s it for this episode, a broad overview of the many different actions and initiatives that you could choose to prioritize in your companies that you start to close the gender pay gap. This overview is based on the Government Equalities Office paper, Reducing the Gender Pay Gap and Improving Gender Quality in Organisations, Evidence-based actions for employers.

I encourage you to go back to that government website for the links to specific research and evidence on these different initiatives.

I hope you found this episode useful and that it sparks some ideas for discussion in your organization.

Please, do reach out and book a call with me if you’d like to explore any of these initiatives and actions with an objective leadership consultant. I offer exploratory calls that you can ask any questions you have about the work that I do with technology companies on attracting, developing, and retaining your female talent so that you can close the gender pay gap.

Simply email me at to book your call. One final shout-out, don’t forget, if you want a place at my executive round table on the 5th of October 2021, please do get in touch. I’d hate for you to miss out on this opportunity to discuss the impact of hybrid working on the gender pay gap with your peers from other technology companies. Thank you so much for reading. To find out more about me and my work, pop over to

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GCP 7 | Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: Does It Affect The Gender Pay Gap?

We often hear that women have higher emotional intelligence. How does this affect their ability to take on leadership roles? Sherry Bevan delves into five elements that make up emotional intelligence and the various studies of how men and women score in this area. She explains how this affects women’s professional advantage and expertise, their effort to climb the career ladder, and their levels of success in their chosen fields.

Listen to the podcast here:

Emotional Intelligence: Does It Affect The Gender Pay Gap?

In this episode, I’m going to be exploring the role of emotional intelligence in the gender pay gap. I work as a leadership consultant partner with technology companies to help them develop and retain their female talent so they close the gender pay gap. Thank you so much for joining me. I’d love you to come back next episode and to make that easier, you just need to subscribe to the show.

As we’re all starting to make our way back into the office after the summer, I’m hearing companies every day making big announcements about their future work model and announcing how much remote or working from home will be allowed going forward. It’s very much introducing this concept of the hybrid work model. Some companies seem to be very flexibly flexible, whereas others are definitely not. That’s exactly what I predicted back in June 2021, when I started to organize my executive round table on the impact of big high working on the gender pay gap in the technology sector.

GCP 7 | Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence: Employees with high levels of emotional intelligence can build strong working relationships and manage difficult situations more effectively.

With more of us now working from home and continuing to work from home in the future, it’s going to be even more challenging to maintain visibility at work. Indeed, I was working with a one-to-one client before this episode, talking about how she can start to maintain and build on the visibility because in her organization, they’re going to carry on working from home for the foreseeable future. Maybe challenging to maintain visibility isn’t quite the right word, but as individuals, we need to be more proactive at how we manage our presence in the office so that we do stay visible and that we do stay front of mind when it comes to interesting projects and promotions.

That is exactly why I’m going to bring together a small group of HR leaders from other technology companies. So far, I’ve had confirmations from organizations such as Sky, Microsoft and Sage. I’m bringing these people together to share their insights, experiences and learnings on how the hybrid work model will affect the gender pay gap. If you’d like to get involved in the executive round table on Tuesday, the 5th of October 2021, please do reach out to me and let’s get you booked on because I’ve only got a couple of spaces left.

The higher up the career ladder you are, the more emotional intelligence makes a difference in how you succeed at work.

Let’s get into the show. In this episode, I would like to explore the role emotional intelligence plays in the gender pay gap. It’s widely believed that developing high emotional intelligence, sometimes you might see this referred to as EI or EQ, that it’s incredibly important to have a long and successful career. What we know is that those employees with high levels of emotional intelligence, they’re able to build strong working relationships and manage difficult situations more effectively.

It’s also said that developing your emotional intelligence will improve your ability to cope with pressure, your ability to build trust, to negotiate, to influence without authority, to navigate those workplace politics, and we all have those. To take risks, but to take small risks while avoiding reckless ones and to handle the myriad of curveballs that get thrown at us and to handle those curve balls with resilience. When we talk about emotional intelligence, what exactly do we mean?

I go back to the psychologist, Daniel Goleman. He identified five elements that make up emotional intelligence and these are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. Let’s take a bit more of a look at each of those five elements. The first three, self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation, are often described as personal competencies because they determine how we manage ourselves. Whereas the last two, empathy and social skills, are often referred to as social competencies. In other words, they determine how we handle relationships and the social structure around us.

GCP 7 | Emotional Intelligence
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Let’s start with self-awareness then. That means being honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses, and being aware of your own feelings. Having that accurate self-assessment of those feelings, your strengths and having self-confidence. When we look at self-regulation, that means you’re not ruled by your feelings. You’re still able to make considered decisions despite your emotions, despite how you might be feeling at the time, but you’re still able to make decisions effectively.

Self-regulation includes things such as self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness and adaptability. When we look at the third personal competency, that’s motivation. Motivation refers to being up for a challenge, happy to work for that long-term success, so you’re able to set those long-term goals and then work towards them by demonstrating commitment, taking initiative and being optimistic. Moving on to the two social competencies then, let’s start with empathy.

Empathy is being able to understand situations from another person’s perspective and then being aware of that individual’s feelings, needs, and concerns, but at the same time, empathy is also about leveraging diversity and political awareness. First and foremost, it’s about being able to see things from somebody else’s point of view, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the feelings that they have or the needs and concerns they have. It’s being able to see it from that person’s point of view. Finally, social skills.

When we talk about somebody who’s got high social skills, it’s somebody who’s easy to talk to, somebody who works well as part of a team. They’re able to diffuse disputes, influence and they communicate well. They’re very comfortable with collaboration. They can manage conflict, and they have good leadership skills generally as well. People who understand and work well with their own emotions, but also other’s emotions and feelings, are the people we describe as having high emotional intelligence. Because of those skills, they tend to be successful at work because they get the best out of every situation.

Women are more effectively using the emotional and social competencies correlated with effective leadership and management.

They’re good people to have around. Daniel Goleman is the author of Social Intelligence and also the best-seller, Emotional Intelligence. I highly recommend those two books if you want to find out more about emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman believes that the more senior a person is, the more emotional intelligence matters. In other words, the higher up the career ladder you are, then the more that this emotional intelligence and those skills make a difference in how you succeed at work.

He also believes that organizations that learn to operate in emotionally intelligent ways are the companies that will remain dynamic and competitive even in a challenging market. It’s high emotional intelligence rather than technical or cognitive skills. That is what makes the best leaders stand out from the mediocre leaders. From what we know of the differences between how men and women tend to behave and communicate, I started out exploring this episode and doing some research because I wondered if that meant that women who often are seen as better at having a more collaborative style of leadership, of having empathy and great communication skills, do women have more emotional intelligence?

GCP 7 | Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

If the answer is yes, why aren’t more women higher up the leadership ladder? That was my starting point. I want you to understand, generally, recognize that women tend to have more emotional intelligence. If that’s the case and emotional intelligence is an indicator of the best leaders, why aren’t there more women higher up the career ladder? It seems the answer is yes and no. Often, people equate emotional intelligence with empathy.

As we’ve seen, empathy is being able to see and understand another person’s feelings, needs, and concerns. Being able to put yourself in that person’s shoes, but empathy is not the only thing that matters when it comes to emotional intelligence. We also know that women often have more complex social relationships. Women tend to be more relationship-focused than men, which plays into the social skills of emotional intelligence.

What’s interesting is there was some research conducted back in 2016 specifically on emotional intelligence by the Korn Ferry Hay Group. They use data from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries using the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, sometimes written down as ESCI. It’s developed and co-owned by Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman, and Korn Ferry themselves.

In this research, what was noticed is that women scored higher on all of the competencies except emotional self-control, where there was no gender difference found between men and women. In all of the other competencies that are important for success at work and all of the other emotional intelligence competencies I’m specifically talking about, women scored higher. This means that women are more effectively using the emotional and social competencies correlated with effective leadership and management.

One interesting comment that I noticed from the research is, “Leaders with strong emotional intelligence create conditions that inspire team members to stay and contribute to the organization long-term. Conversely, leaders with low emotional intelligence have greater potential to drive team members away from the organization.” We’ve all seen that. People leave leaders, not jobs. If you’ve got a leader with strong emotional intelligence who inspires loyalty, you’re more likely to stay. Whereas if it’s somebody who doesn’t have those social skills, who doesn’t have that empathy, you’re more likely to leave more quickly.

GCP 7 | Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence: Empathy is seeing and understanding another person’s feelings, needs, and concerns.

A study by the global management consultancy Hay Group, analyzed leadership styles around the world and their impact on organizational performance. Ruth Malloy, who was the firm’s head of leadership and talent at the time, examined the results. This showed that leadership style has a big impact on commercial success. What she found is that when you only look at the best leaders in the top 10% of business performance, there are no gender differences in emotional intelligence.

The men are as good as the women, and the women are as good as the man across the board. That’s when you’re looking at the best leaders in the top 10% of business performance, with no gender differences. This research also showed that high levels of emotional intelligence are even more critical in matrix work environments, where individuals are required to lead by influence rather than lead through direct authority. That’s something worth noting in our ever-global world where we often have teams based in 2 or 3 different countries or where we’re managing a matrix team. It’s those levels of emotional intelligence are even more critical in those types of environments.

In conclusion, does emotional intelligence have a role to play in changing the gender pay gap? From what I’ve read, it seems that not, although women tend to score higher in emotional intelligence. When you look at the top leaders and the top companies, they don’t appear to be any differences in emotional intelligence. There was that research that showed that the men are as good as the women and the women are as good as the men across the board when it comes to the top leaders.

Women are more relationship-focused than men, which plays into the social skills of emotional intelligence.

There’s no doubt that developing and building your emotional intelligence, is a sensible strategy. It’s a valuable strategy in order for you as an individual to make progress in your career and as HR leaders for you to provide the tools and the training and the workshops and the awareness to allow your talent to make progress in their careers. From the research and the studies that I’ve looked at to research for this episode, emotional intelligence on its own is not the deciding factor in determining your female talent pipeline and it’s not the deciding factor in whether you’re any nearer to closing the gender pay gap.

GCP 7 | Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence: High levels of emotional intelligence are more critical in matrix work environments. Here, individuals are required to lead by influence rather than lead through direct authority.

I wonder, women tend to have high emotional intelligence, and yet that gender pay gap still exists. What if women didn’t have higher emotional intelligence? Does that mean that the gender pay gap would be even wider? That’s a question I can’t answer, but I’ve enjoyed exploring the role of emotional intelligence in the gender pay gap in this episode. I hope this has stimulated your thoughts, too and I’d love to hear your ideas.

If you’d like to explore any of the ideas discussed, please do reach out and book a call with me. I offer exploratory calls and that you can ask any questions you have about the work that I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talent so that you start to close that gender pay gap. Email me at to book your call.

If you do want to book one of those last two spaces on the executive round table on Tuesday, the 5th of October 2021, reach out quickly because I’d hate for you to miss out on your opportunity to discuss the impact of hybrid working on the gender pay gap with your peers from other technology companies. Thank you so much for reading. I’ve enjoyed exploring and researching, and talking about the role of emotional intelligence in changing the gender pay gap. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and gained some valuable insights, and don’t forget if you want to find out more about me and my work, visit Thanks for reading.

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CGP 6 | Self Promotion Gender Gap

The Gender Gap In Self-Promotion: How To Encourage More Women To Put Themselves Forward

Certain companies have half their workforce female, but there are very few women in leadership positions. Why does this keep happening, even today? Sherry Bevan explores the gender gap in self-promotion. A self-promotion is an essential tool for career advancement. Women have to realize that they are valuable and worth it. In this episode, Sherry explains why women don’t put themselves forward for promotion and shares ideas and how you can address this issue in your organization. It’s not just about fixing women; it’s also about changing the system and the landscape. How do you do that? If you want to learn what you can do to encourage women to self-promote, then this episode is for you.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Gender Gap In Self-Promotion: How To Encourage More Women To Put Themselves Forward

Thank you so much for joining me. I would love you to come back next episode and to make that easier, you just needed to subscribe to the show. I remember when I was at school, I was jealous of the kids that had birthdays during term time. At the same time, I was also secretly glad for having a birthday in August meant I never had to endure the birthday bumps because it was always the school holidays. I don’t know if the birthday bump is a thing anymore.

CGP 6 | Self Promotion Gender Gap
The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion by Christine L. Exley and Judd B. Kessler

I’m also busy finalizing invitations for my executive round table on the impact of hybrid working on the gender pay gap in the technology sector. I still do have a couple of spaces available for the executive round table on the 5th of October. Please do reach out if you’d like to join us, to share insights, experiences and learnings with participants from other tech companies, including Sky, Microsoft and Sage. In this episode, I want to explore why women don’t put themselves forward for promotion at work. What can you do to change this habit?

Self-promotion is an essential tool for career advancement whether that’s in job, performance reviews or just simply networking. Women often feel they need to be more than capable of doing the job at that next level before they apply. To the issue of self-promotion, it’s less likely to be a problem early on in careers, where there are more structured programs for career progression. It means it’s more likely to be of a challenge further down the talent pipeline, particularly when you’re recruiting for more senior roles or promoting into those more senior roles. For some women, those more senior roles come at a time when they’ve taken time out for maternity leave and often that can have a knock on a woman’s confidence.

The gender gap in self-promotion reflects an underlying gender gap in how individuals subjectively evaluate their performance. 

According to a Hewlett Packard study, men will apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The main reason that women give to not apply for a job is they’re concerned that they’d be wasting their time if they’re not fully qualified for the role. Men tend to have no such qualms about applying for jobs even if they don’t quite fit the criteria.

Whenever I talk about women, men, I’m talking about general tendencies. There’s a great paper I’d encourage you to read. It’s called The Gender Pay Gap in Self-Promotion. It was first published back in October 2019 and has been revised in May 2021. It’s by Christine Exley and Judd Kessler. It shows that women subjectively describe their ability and performance to potential employers less favorably than equally performing men, even when all incentives to promote are removed. However, the gender gap remains. The gender gap in self-promotion is reflective of an underlying gender gap in how individuals subjectively evaluate their own performance.

In this working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, women were consistently rating their performance on a particular task lower than the men did. Even though when you look at the actual test results, both groups had the same average score. When it came to self-assessment, men, on average, gave themselves 61 out of 100. Women gave themselves 46 out of 100. Even when told that an employer would use their self-evaluation, decide whether to hide them and what to pay them, women still self-promoted less than men.

CGP 6 | Self Promotion Gender Gap
Self Promotion Gender Gap: Women tend to fall into the habit of expecting others to notice the results and offer the rewards.

At various points in our professional lives, individuals are explicitly asked about their performance and their ability especially when it comes to applying for a job, a self-nomination for promotion. Even to simply being more visible and expressing articulating skills, experience and ambition. This paper then documents, firstly, a gender gap in self-promotion in that women subjectively describe their performance less favorably to potential employers than equally performing men but it also documents a gender gap and informed self-promotion. The gender gap persists even when participants know that absolute and their relative performance and they are asked about that performance.

This relates to an underlying gender gap in how men and women subjectively evaluate their performance but it’s not simply enough to encourage or educate women on how to be more confident or how to be more assertive. It’s not just about fixing women but it’s about changing the system and changing the landscape. What’s the answer? Do we need to use more objective performance metrics rather than subjective self-assessments of performance?

Even then, we’ve seen from a previous episode that there is bias in that performance and the feedback. We’ve already seen that men are more likely to put themselves forward for a role, even if they’re not ready in terms of ticking all the boxes or ticking all the criteria, whereas women often feel they need to be more than capable of doing a job before they apply. Many business leaders support go for the job and worry about if you can do it later.

Education is a key way of encouraging women to think about visibility rather than self-promotion.

This doesn’t necessarily come naturally to all women and it doesn’t come naturally to some men as well. Women tend to overvalue expertise and want to be experts at everything to be able to move up the career ladder. When in fact, the higher up the ladder you are, the more you’re focused on strategy and the importance of delegation. Women tend to have a reluctance to claim achievements about being assertive to talk about their achievements and results. The double whammy of this is that women tend to get penalized for seeming assertive because it’s not our cultural expectation. It’s not what society wants and expects from women.

Women tend to fall into the habit of expecting others to notice the results and offer the rewards. This comes back to our school days where we learn that we work hard and therefore we get good results in terms of our exam results, our degree. When we get into the workplace, working hard and producing good results is not enough. We also see women in the loyalty trap where they get more focused on their team, their manager or their company rather than prioritizing their own career. They’re not always on the lookout for opportunities and they tend to not think of the job as a stepping stone.

They feel uncomfortable admitting self-interest and another interesting thing is that women tend to be risk-averse, which means they’re less open to failure and therefore perhaps less likely to take a chance to take the risk of going for that promotion or go for that new job. Women tend to be much more detail-focused. They tend to want to be perfectionists and to focus on the detail and that means they’re unable to delegate as effectively, which often then keeps them overwhelmingly busy.

Attending meetings, we tend to see women minimizing themselves, making themselves smaller, taking up less space in meetings and that has a subtle subconscious effect, not just on the woman but on the people around her and of expectations of her. The idea of self-promotion itself feels very alien to many women. It goes against that be nice behavior that has been instilled in women and girls from very early years because self-promotion conjures up this idea of ego. It conjures up this idea of the falseness of awkward actions. Often for women, it feels too masculine, particularly if they’re actively trying to be their authentic feminine self and not a replica of the masculine career go-getter.

We’ve looked then why women tend to not put themselves forward for promotion, why they don’t self-promote. To knowing all of this, what can you do to encourage more women? What can organizations do to encourage more women to put themselves forward for promotion? Education is a key way of encouraging women to think about visibility rather than self-promotion. Education in the form of lunch and learns, workshops or leadership programs, either in-house or sending women to an external program. Something that a large technology company started to do because they were noticing that fewer women were putting themselves forward for promotion in that annual promotion mound each year.

In the run-up to the annual promotion round, they started to send out emails, informing people where the information in the data on how many employees had self-nominated the year before and of those, how many had been successful and showing the percentages for those identifying as men or as women. They would then send out a couple more emails before the promotion round closed of how many had submitted or self-nominated in that particular promotion round.

What they found was this encouraged more women to put themselves forward because they could see the imbalance and they could see the injustice. They did this for 3 or 4 years and then one year, they didn’t send out those pre-promotion emails and what they noticed was that the numbers dropped right back again. Something else you can do is to look at the language of your promotion criteria in the same way as you would approach looking at neutral language on job descriptions for job applications.

CGP 6 | Self Promotion Gender Gap
Self Promotion Gender Gap: When women are ready or felt they were ready, this often coincided with when they started to think about having families.

If you’re not sure how to do this, the first step is to focus on any gender-coded words, for example, workmanship, chairman, grandfather clause. Look at the descriptive language because there are some words that are more appealing to women, what we call feminine-coded language. For example, feminine-coded language that appeals to women are things like collaboration, communication or connection. A few examples of masculine-coded language would be aggressive, competitive, decisive.

What we’ve seen from the research is whereas feminine-coded language doesn’t particularly put men off, masculine-coded language definitely does put women off. Something that you can do is to look at your criteria and see whether you can change the language to encourage more women to put themselves forward. More than that, when you review the criteria, the other thing to look at is are the requirements that you have written down necessary?

This goes back to the fact we were discussing earlier that women will typically only put themselves forward for a job, a promotion or a new role when they meet 100% of the criteria. Review your criteria. Review the requirements for your promotions. Are they strictly necessary? One large financial institution noticed a few years ago is that its male assistant bank managers tended to put themselves forward for promotion to branch manager a year before they were ready and women tend to do it a year after they were ready so a year too late.

What they started to do then was to proactively promote their women a year ahead of the time. The other thing that they started to realize is that when women were ready or when women felt they were ready, this often coincided with the time that women were starting to think about or starting families. This meant that they didn’t want to put themselves forward for a bigger role for a promotion because they were unsure about their career, their life and how they would feel about having that bigger role with a family to take into consideration.

What this bank started to do was to promote women before they had children. Perhaps potentially a year earlier than they were ready for it but it meant that once you’ve got that promotion and then you start to think about having a family, you just adapt. You take on the new role, you take on the new responsibilities and then when you come back from maternity leave, it fits into your life a lot more easily.

I would encourage you to look at, gather and analyze the relevant data. Analyze their promotions and look at which departments or teams provide more of your senior staff. Let’s put a supermarket, for example. In a supermarket, you make your way up the career ladder. You become responsible for a particular section so you become a section manager for frozen goods store, household cleaning or the bakery department.

One national supermarket realized that most of their store managers came from 1 or 2 sections and these were the sections that not many women worked in. By gathering and analyzing their data and seeing where their promotion, where their senior staff came from, that allowed the supermarket to take action for the future.

In this episode, we’ve looked at why women don’t put themselves forward for promotion and we’ve looked at a few ideas and how you can address this issue in your own organization. If you’d like to explore some of the ideas discussed then please do reach out and book a call with me. I offer exploratory calls. You can ask any questions you’ve got about the work I do with technology companies on attracting, developing and retaining your female talent so you close the gender pay gap.

Thank you so much for reading. I’ve enjoyed writing about why women don’t put themselves forward for promotion and what you can do in your organization to change that habit so that you start to close the gender pay gap. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this episode and gain some valuable insights. To find out more about me and my work, visit Thanks for reading.

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How Performance Feedback At Work Influences Your Gender Pay Gap With Shirin Nikaein

Performance feedback is often used as a tool to measure competency and is, therefore, a gauge for employee success, with good feedback often rewarded with better pay or promotions. Yet, in the case of women in the workplace, it can also be the cause of a gender pay gap.

Join Sherry Bevan as she explores this issue with the CEO and Co-founder of, Shirin Nikaein. Shirin and Sherry discuss performance feedback and how it can negatively impact the gender pay gap. They also talk about ways to resolve this issue. A thought-provoking discussion that leaders need to tune in to.

Listen to the podcast here

How Performance Feedback At Work Influences Your Gender Pay Gap With Shirin Nikaein

I’m absolutely delighted to be talking to Shirin Nikaein. She is the Cofounder and CEO of Upful, an HR Software as a Service startup. She’s got many years of experience leading engineering analytics and product management in many tech companies, from startups to large enterprises. She’s the former lead engineer for the Beats by Dre headphones and her previous artificial intelligence products have been used by clients including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, UPS and Tinder. She’s graduated with a Master’s in Electrical Engineering. We’re going to be sharing some ideas and experiences on how performance feedback affects the gender pay gap. I hope you get something valuable from this to help you. Welcome, Shirin. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thanks for having me, Sherry.

This is such a fascinating topic and I know when we first got talking about this, we could have just talked for hours. I thought I’d start by asking you to explain to me, how do women sell themselves short in their own self-assessment? Lots of us have heard about imposter syndrome. What do we do to ourselves? How do we sabotage ourselves?

In how we do self-ratings, even in the language and how we explain what we’ve done, our accomplishments, not just in self-assessments when it comes time for a formal review. It also shows up in how we write our resumes, where we’re typically giving more credit to our team. We explain our accomplishments as like we contributed to a team effort or we didn’t necessarily need it. We were more afraid of taking credit for something that we led because there is somewhat of a backlash if we do try to take credit for it. I understand why some women are afraid to do that because we might get labeled as having a big ego or being a little bit arrogant. There’s a double standard that we’re dealing with.

On top of that, we also have the category of women who are suffering from imposter syndrome. This group of people doesn’t even see themselves as having had as great of an impact as they did. They don’t realize that they have led or contributed in a significant way that led to some kind of big accomplishment. It’ll show up in the language and language is probably softened. Even the numerical ratings are also lower than that of white men. That’s how we sell ourselves short.

We’ve both mentioned the imposter syndrome there but just in case there’s anybody reading, who hasn’t heard of that before, it’s a new term for them. Would you mind just giving us a brief explanation of what we’re talking about?

Imposter syndrome is an internal belief that we’re not good enough. We don’t fit in. If you have a different definition that you would like to add to, please do. It’s like we don’t see ourselves as the typical CEO or leader. We don’t see enough of that in either media or in the world and we’re not exposed to it. In our heads, we don’t think we fit in. When we get to that level, we still don’t think we fit in. The problem is, oftentimes, we are just as capable, intelligent and able to perform but in our heads, we don’t believe it yet. We think that we’re being fake. We feel like we are faking our way and most of us are not. We’re just as capable as the next person.

Imposter syndrome is the internal belief that we’re not good enough or we don’t fit in.

Sometimes what I hear women say is that it’s a lucky fluke that they got to where they are or they worry, they’re going to “get found out.”

They attribute it to luck rather than their own accomplishments and experience.

We’ve talked about how women tend to sell themselves short in their own self-assessment. How does this influence the feedback that they then get from their own managers on their performance?

In a lot of companies, what they do is because it’s difficult for managers to remember everything that every one of their direct reports has done throughout the year. This is for companies that maybe only do it once or twice a year. That’s part of why a lot of companies have moved to do it more frequently because you don’t forget all of these things that happen throughout the year. When a manager has to remember, maybe they have ten direct reports and they have to remember all of the big things that everybody did? They can’t remember that on their own.

What they do is depend on reading everybody’s self-assessments and evaluations. The manager will look at these self-assessments. They’re going to be impacted by the language in it, by the ratings in it and the content of it. Whatever the woman wrote about her accomplishments and growth throughout that year, this manager is going to make an assessment based on reading that. If that self-assessment is already lower in terms of the ratings and the way that the accomplishments are described, the credit that the woman took for her contributions, the manager is negatively going to be anchored by those lower self-assessments.

There has been a study done, I believe. I don’t know if it’s been released to the public but there was a public presentation on it back in 2019. It’s a study done by the Harvard Kennedy School for Women and Public Policy Program and the University of Exeter. The study was done by Iris Bohnet, Oliver Hauser, and Ariella Kristal. The paper is called Supply- and Demand- Side Effects in Performance Appraisals: The Role of Gender and Race. They looked at how people like white men versus women did their self-assessments and what kind of numerical scores they got.

They looked at how those self-assessments anchored manager assessments. You can see that there’s a clear anchoring effect. However, the manager assessments do bring it closer together. The difference between the self-assessments was big and the manager assessment did minimize that gap a little bit but it was still very clearly anchored by it. That’s where we’re getting these results from this study.

CGP 5 Shirin Nikaein | Performance Feedback
Performance Feedback: Subtle differences in language in an evaluation have a huge impact on whether somebody gets promoted or gets a salary increase.

Also, that influences the managers and how they view that individual woman or man. It’s also going to affect how they view whether or not that person is ready to get promoted as well, which I think you’re creating this spiral effect almost. If you sell yourself short in your self-assessment, therefore, your manager sells you short as well but he or she is influenced by what you’ve written. It keeps ongoing.

I have an example of two sentences that we could dissect and talk about how great the difference is in these two sentences. This first one is about a man, let’s say the name is Tom. The sentence says, “Tom seems hesitant in making decisions. Yet, he is able to work out multiple alternative solutions and determine the most suitable one.” That’s one. The second sentence is for a female, “Amanda seems paralyzed and confused when facing tight deadlines to make decisions.”

Imagine that these are the exact two same scenarios. These are how differently it was described based on gender. The problem with this is when you say that “Amanda is paralyzed and confused,” first of all, how do you know what’s going on in her head? How do you know if she was confused? Using the word confused makes it sound like she’s incompetent. The fact that the way that they said it, “She’s paralyzed and confused when making decisions,” that’s it. They left it like that. It makes you question whether she has potential for growth but then when you look at the sentence for the man, Tom was just hesitant. How do you know what was going on in his head? There’s no outward observation that you can make to see what’s going on in someone’s head.

They called it hesitant, which doesn’t indicate any type of incompetency as confusion does. They did say, “He came up with multiple solutions and then picked one.” They did. In the end, he came to a decision. That’s good. It seems like he has more potential and doesn’t need additional training for this but for the woman. It sounds like, “Something’s wrong with her. She needs more training and she can’t even think.” These very subtle differences in language in the evaluation have a huge impact on whether somebody gets promoted or when they will get the next salary increase. It also affects what projects they get assigned to. The woman might not get assigned to the most strategic or visible project but the man will because the way that the languages presented shows that they still have potential and they’re still competent.

That’s great knowing those two examples and you can see how the language has a big impact on not just what that manager writes but future managers and what they might interpret or perceive from that feedback.

Just like that, you’re saying that Directors and VPs might read these manager assessments and make decisions without ever knowing that employee. That’s why the language is incredibly important because there is so much meaning behind it.

One of the things we talked about previously was likability and how that impacts performance reviews for women versus men?

When women break stereotypical norms, they are punished for it.

There were two studies that I wanted to mention with respect to ability. One of them is the Heidi and Howard Study. Heidi Roizen is an actual VC and basically, there was this experiment conducted at the Columbia Business School with the business school students. The students get to see two case studies. They’re the exact same case study, but one of them has the name Heidi and one of them has the name Howard.

Otherwise, everything else is exactly the same, just the name.

Just the name and that indicates gender. This case study was about a successful venture capitalist. They asked these study participants to rate the competency and the likeability of this VC. Heidi and Howard were rated highly on competency but Heidi was rated very low on likability. The study participants said that, “Heidi is power-hungry. She is self-promoting and not humble. They would not hire her and would not want to work with her.” It’s the complete opposite of Howard. This is the exact same person on paper. The only difference is gender. You can see that there’s a clear likeability penalty when a woman is exhibiting stereotypically masculine traits in a stereotypically masculine role. That is when they break the stereotypical norms. They are punished for it.

It’s almost as though it’s okay for a man to be ambitious, self-starter and perhaps aggressive in his approach maybe but as soon as a woman displays those same characteristics, it’s wrong. It’s a bad thing for a woman to be displaying those same characteristics because we perceive and expect women to behave in a softer, more feminine way.

It’s about the expectation and whether we break it or not. There are other studies that talk about how women who are in stereotypically more feminine roles, like marketing, don’t necessarily break the stereotypes. There isn’t as much of this double or punishment because they’re in a stereotypically female role.

It’s interesting because what we talked about in the last episode was how there’s a hierarchy in technology and that often women will end up in roles that are seen as less technical, less demanding and therefore get valued or paid less. For example, product management or training are seen as better suited to a typical female skillset and that perhaps a network architect or lead engineer is better suited to a male, the stereotypical tendency. That’s interesting that you’ve raised that as well.

There’s the double standard for if you’re a female and you’re in a more masculine role or position but even if you don’t behave in a masculine way and you’re in that role, you’re just not going to get anywhere. You’re not going to grow as fast as the others. Either you might have an easier time in that role because you’re not being punished but you’re also not going to grow. There’s this double bind.

CGP 5 Shirin Nikaein | Performance Feedback
Performance Feedback: Directors and VPs read manager assessments and make decisions without ever knowing an employee. That’s why the language is so incredibly important because there is so much meaning behind it.

We’ve already talked a bit about this but it’s going to affect how quickly different groups of employees get promoted, get salary increases or the size of the bonus, even that they get as well.

How it affects how people grow? It affects your earnings, salary increases, what we’ve talked about before, whether you get promoted or not and how quickly you got promoted. There’s a term for this. It’s called promotion velocity. Promotion velocity is the measurement of how quickly people grow in an organization, how quickly they get promoted. What does that time for the promotion? Companies need to be tracking this, measuring this, slice and dice it by different demographics in their company or organization.

They need to look at based on gender, race, ethnicity, even based on other factors that we haven’t uncovered yet. Even do it by department, it would be interesting to look at that. Just to see certain groups of people getting promoted at a quicker rate or a slower rate than others. Is there some reason for that? It might uncover some issues with bias and discrimination. Companies need to start tracking it. It’s still somewhat of a new term. It hasn’t been tracked historically. When companies care about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, this needs to be one of the things that they measure. There are some simulations done. There’s one that was done at Rice University that looked at two identical people that had a 5% difference in performance ratings. What they found was that a tiny 5% difference equated to creating a two-level gap over the course of seven years.

When we talk about the gap, it’s very much talking about promotion velocity. It’s also pointing out the fact that so many companies are focused on, “Let’s hire more women into these managerial or leadership roles. Let’s hire them externally.” The problem isn’t just that we’re not giving them the same opportunities in terms of hiring, recruiting and acquisition. It’s about growth within the company as well because they’re just not being promoted at the same rate. It truly is an issue with how we’re evaluating them, not necessarily whether they’re capable, competent or whether they need more development and training. Those are all things that are important too. Even when two people are totally equal, there is a gap and that needs to be solved.

This simulation at Rice, as I mentioned, was done for two identical people. The difference wasn’t even based on race or gender. If you can imagine that if race or gender was factored in, that gap would be even greater. When we look at diverse representation, when you look at different levels within a company from entry-level up to CEO, the diversity decreases as you move up the company ladder. This has a lot to do with promotion velocity or different differential promotion velocities.

It’s quite incredible how over time, naturally, that gap is going to be exaggerated and to be felt even more as people move up through an organization.

There’s one more study I can mention here because it goes back to likability, breaking the stereotypical norms and that punishment for it. This other study was done by a New York University psychologist. I believe her name is Madeline Heilman. The participants in this study were basically given two identical scenarios and the difference is gender. They were asked to evaluate the performance of either the male or female employee who did or didn’t stay late to help colleagues prepare for an important meeting. In the case that both the man and the woman said, “Yes, I will stay late and help you prepare for this meeting,” the man was rated 14% higher than the woman.

Diversity decreases as you move up the company ladder, and this has a lot to do with different promotion velocities.

That’s a huge amount.

This is not even the 5%. This is 14%. When both of them said yes, the man was rated at 14% higher. Now when both of them said, “No, I can’t stay late to help you prepare for a meeting,” the woman was rated 12% lower than the man. Identical scenarios and the only difference is gender. What they found was that a woman has to say yes all the time and help her colleagues in order to be at the same level as a man who always says no.

Further, they found that the reasoning behind this is because when both of them said, “Yes, I’ll help,” the woman was expected to be helpful. That’s why she didn’t get extra points for it. When the man said yes, they didn’t expect him to be helpful. When he said yes, “He’s generous. This guy’s amazing.” When they both said no, it’s because the expectation was for the woman to always be helpful. When she said no, she was punished for it. She was considered to be selfish. When the man said no, people assumed that he was busy doing something more important. They didn’t make that assumption about the woman but for the man, “He must be busy with something more important. It’s okay.”

That’s a double whammy. It comes back to perhaps society’s expectations of what we perceive, how a woman should behave and that she should be helpful and all of that kind of thing, which is absolutely fascinating. We’ve talked a lot about the different factors and what’s involved. The differences between how men and women may be perceived in terms of feedback. What can HR leaders do to encourage a more positive feedback culture?

This is something that I learned from one of the companies that I interviewed. They can ask or do a survey to ask people how they prefer to hear feedback. They put together a survey and ask people, “When do you want to hear it? How do you want to hear it? Who do you want to hear it from?” This can help managers or colleagues prepare for how to have those conversations or if they do it in writing, how to go about it? Putting together a little survey like that to understand how people want to receive it if they want to ask for it ahead of time if they want it to happen in private or in the moment as it’s happening. All of these preferences would be great to know because then people can be more effective in delivering that feedback.

Also, HR should make sure that there are different options for how to give feedback that people are comfortable doing that. Whether it’s in writing, in person or maybe in some cases, it should be anonymous. In other cases, maybe it shouldn’t be anonymous. Maybe it has to go through a third party that HR could put together in place some tools to facilitate this. Maybe even to facilitate it in real-time, any time throughout the year, not just once or twice a year, because we know that there are a lot of cognitive biases that can impact how feedback is given. Recency bias is a big one. As time passes, we forget all the details and we become less accurate in how we remember things. Our memory does not work like a videotape so we need to be aware of that bias when we’re giving each other feedback. The sooner you can give the feedback, the better. There are tools that will help facilitate that as well.

I know your product Upful will help to reduce bias in performance reviews and employee feedback. Tell me a little bit more about your product.

CGP 5 Shirin Nikaein | Performance Feedback
Performance Feedback: HR should make sure that there are different options for giving feedback so that people are comfortable doing it – whether it’s in writing, in person, or, in some cases, anonymous.

Upful is a coaching tool. It’s software that analyzes language in performance reviews or in employee feedback. It could also be applied to job candidate assessment notes. It analyzes the language. It looks for vague, subjective, extreme, speculative and potentially biased words or phrases. In real-time, whoever is writing this, coaches them to be more meaningful, objective and inclusive in their language choice. If somebody was giving even positive feedback, like if you said, “Sherry did a good job with X, Y, and Z,” the coach might then pop up a little message off to the side and say, “That’s great.” Can you let her know what was great about what she did? She might do it more in the future.”

It’s all non-accusatory so that people don’t have a defensive reaction to the coaching and it’s all private. Only the person writing it gets to see these coaching moments. It either reminds them of best practices, asks them to provide an example or it asks them questions to provoke deeper thinking. Another example of the coaching that we do is with this double bind or the double standards that women face. If you were to say that, “Sherry is always aggressive in meetings.” The coach might say, “I might flag something about the word always because that’s an extreme word. How often is it truly always? We might coach around that.”

For the word aggressive, we might say something like, “How is she being aggressive? Can you give an example? Could it also be considered assertive or confident?” Now, we’re planting seeds about alternative interpretations that the writer might then think about and reconsider. Basically, we’re trying to make the quality of the review, better and more accurate representation of someone’s performance and potential but also make it more meaningful so that the person receiving that feedback can actually learn and grow from it.

Lots of HR teams will give feedback to managers on how to conduct performance review meetings or how to write performance feedback. This is supplementing that by giving you that coaching tool on top of it that reinforces and reminds people about the bias that may be slipping into what they’re writing without them even realizing it.

We don’t because it’s not accusatory. We don’t call people out. We never say, “You’re being biased. You said something bad.” It’s always done in this subtle soft way so that nobody reacts very defensively to it. We even try to inject some humor into the way that we do the coaching because that’s our take on it, our little spin on how to make it a little bit more friendly and for people to learn from. We’re using Behavioral Science methodologies that are proven. There are tons of studies that show this type of methodology can help change how people think and behave and we’re utilizing those methodologies in our product.

That’s absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me, Shirin. I’ve enjoyed talking to you about how performance feedback is affecting the gender pay gap. I hope that you enjoyed reading this episode. Thank you so much for joining me. If this episode sparked a thought in your mind, I’d love for you to connect with a chat with me so that you can ask any questions you have about the work that I do with technology companies on attracting, developing, retaining your female talent so you can close the gender pay gap. Thank you for reading and we’ll be back in the next episode.

Important Links:

About Shirin Nikaein

CGP 5 Shirin Nikaein | Performance FeedbackShirin Nikaein is the Co-Founder & CEO of, an HR / DEI Tech SaaS startup. Shirin has nearly 15 years of experience leading engineering, analytics, and product management in many tech companies, from startups to large enterprises. She’s the former Lead Engineer for the Beats by Dre headphones, and her previous Artificial Intelligence products have been used by clients including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, UPS and Tinder. She graduated with a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from USC and an MBA from UCLA Anderson.

CGP 4 | Tech Industry Hierarchy

Breaking The Tech Industry Hierarchy To Close The Gender Pay Gap With Jo Stansfield

There is an assumption that women can only do certain things and that they aren’t qualified for more technical roles in the tech industry. Now is the time to break that hierarchy and give everyone equal opportunity. Joining this episode is the founder and director of InclusioneeringJo Stansfield, to talk about how the hierarchy affects the gender pay gap. Learn how to break the perceived status of women and how they can learn different skill sets. Learn how to be flexible so that you can move up the ranks and break the pay gap.

Listen to the podcast here:

Breaking The Tech Industry Hierarchy To Close The Gender Pay Gap With Jo Stansfield

A very warm welcome to Jo Stansfield. We’re going to be talking about how the hierarchy in technology teams affects the gender pay gap. Before we do that, I’ll let you know about Inclusioneering, where Jo works, is a social enterprise specializing in diversity, equity, inclusion solutions, and consultancy for technology and engineering organizations. Before we dive into the content of this episode, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s read, shared or subscribe to the first few episodes of the show. I do appreciate and value every single one of you, so thank you for that.

A very warm welcome to Jo. Before we start exploring this fascinating subject of how the hierarchy in technology teams works, what it is, and how that might affect the gender pay gap, I would love you to tell us a bit more about you and Inclusioneering.

Thanks, Sherry. I’m very happy to be here and talk about it. It’s such an important topic. My name is Jo Stansfield. I’m the Founder and Director of Inclusioneering Ltd. We’re a social enterprise specializing in diversity, equity, inclusion, and consultancy for taking engineering firms to help them transform their culture and achieve much better results from their teams in terms of their productivity, innovation through building much greater inclusion and equality in the team. I came to this by route of being a woman in tech myself. Most of my experience in my career has been working in tech teams, doing the engineering, and leading engineering teams to be developing enterprise software. I had a bit of an awakening that being a woman in tech was quite a big deal when I had kids.

Suddenly, I realized that my identity isn’t how I feel about me. It’s also about how other people see me, the assumptions they make, and the expectations they have too. Becoming a mom made it clear that people’s expectations of me didn’t match the ambition and the drive that I had to be doing so much more with my career. That set me off on a path, decided to retrain to understand much more about what’s going on and what are the factors that people create. These assumptions, expectations, and all of the underlying social interaction behind them. I decided to take an Organizational Psychology Master’s Degree as you do, and that led me on completing that to be able to make use of the research that I carried out about taking engineering teams to set up Inclusioneering and build on the findings from all of the research that I did there.

Tell me a bit more about your Master’s because it sounds like you had this awakening when you became a mother and realized that other people’s perceptions of you weren’t what you had. Tell me a bit more about what you looked at in your Master’s.

I signed up for the Master’s Degree while I was leading some technical departments and some of the first things that taught me a lot more about leadership. What it is to be a leader and different styles of leadership that we can take. All of this was building on some strong psychological foundations, looking across dimensions of cognition and social psychology, how people relate, the origins of bias and prejudice, and all of this being rooted in stereotypes. This leads to the attitudes that we form, which lead to the decisions we make and the actions that we take. All of this came together to support me in the leadership role that I had at that time, but it became a growing interest to focus on the diversity aspects.

Why gender and ethnicity matters in closing the gender pay gap.

From that point on within the Master’s Degree, I’m focused on pretty much every single piece of work I could do towards understanding the dynamics of diversity within teams in organizations. We also had lots of topics around coaching, which is now quite integral to part of the work that I’m doing. Looking at organizational development, and change are the things that impact how an organization operates. There’s a lot of foundational stuff that now supports the work that I’m doing to be working with organizations for change.

What specifically did you learn that you’re bringing into the workplace when you work with employers?

In terms of the dynamics of diversity, I think this is where a lot of the key things start to show up. The research that I carried out was very focused on what happens within tech and engineering teams. Can we see anything in the day-to-day experience of people in their teams that highlights things that might predict why we don’t see women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds progressing in the same way that white men do through their careers? All of that research was built upon the social psychology foundations I talked about. It’s understanding the impact of stereotype expectations between different people and how that can lead to bias in terms of what we expect of each other. That can also lead to different kinds of status expectations too.

One thing that I’ve found fascinating in the research, and as I’ve been talking to people about it afterward, is how this status expectation starts aligning between what we see in society and the different types of roles we’ve got in our teams. Within a tech team, you’ve got your developers, testers, user experience, and documentation. There’s a bit of a power hierarchy going on there between all of the different roles in the team. Very often, the developers, architects and the most technical roles are the people who have got the most influence in the team in terms of the direction the team takes. What we see happening is that it starts to align with these kinds of social groups as well.

Women will often find themselves gradually being moved into more people roles regardless of how technical they see themselves. They quite often become project managers or user experience, whereas the men often in the developer roles having that higher status technical work. I’m beginning to understand the dynamics of power, status, and how that influences who really gets the prestigious work. It’s quite fundamental in the work that I’m doing to help build greater inclusion within tech teams to be able to recognize people’s strengths regardless of stereotype expectations that we might have of them.

That resonates because when I was head of IT, I had it fairly mixed team in terms of numbers of men versus women, but all my trainers were female. All of my techy people were male and the service desk was a bit of a mix. I always found that the service desk was a team that always seemed to be at the lowest end of the hierarchy regardless of how senior you were in that service desk team. That resonates because I can see lots of the women that I have worked in their tech careers have ended up migrating into a project management role so it’s interesting that that’s what you’ve found in your research. I can see how it aligns with what’s going on in society as a whole.

It’s interesting to see how that alignment happens without anyone consciously thinking about it. There’s that gradual shift of people moving towards roles that line up with their social status as well. One thing that I found interesting after doing the research is that I’ve been talking to people about race as well as about gender. One thing that I’ve learned is that very often, black people find it very difficult to get the most technical roles. They’re not taken as seriously as their white counterparts, so they’ll enter their career through a different route such as testing. There’s the challenge to overcome the hurdle from moving from a tester into one of the more technical developer roles that is still to overcome. Often, that’s a transition that people don’t manage to make.

CGP 4 | Tech Industry Hierarchy
Tech Industry Hierarchy: People need to understand the impact of stereotype expectations between different people. That can lead to bias in terms of what people expect of each other.

One thing that’s heartbreaking about it is that organizations are busy saying, “Where’s the diversity? Why can’t we recruit more diversity into these roles?” I’m busy talking at conferences to people saying, “I’ve been trying so hard to get a developer job. I’ve trained myself in my own time and I’ve done all of this extra project work in my own back, but no one is taking me seriously and I can’t get that more technical job.” There’s a bit of a disconnect between what is there and what we’re recognizing in terms of people’s preferences.

Do you think that’s to do with us as individuals and the way that we present ourselves in the workplace or do you think it has to do with the way that the heads of IT, CIO, CTO, or the head of HR, how they view people or is it a bit of both perhaps?

It’s been a bit of both. Expectations are very pervasive. Everybody has expectations based on stereotypes of pretty much everybody else. I’ve found that women stereotype women as much as men stereotype women. It’s a cultural phenomenon rather than a particular gender against the other gender. It’s something that’s built into all of us of what we expect from each other. We internalize that, too, sometimes. I’ve talked to quite a few women who know that I’m quite good at the people tasks. I want to do the technical stuff, but I can see the people things are what people want me to do.” That expectation gets built into the path that we put for ourselves as well. There are both aspects of it giving that nudge towards the more stereotypical expectation for everybody.

Do you think that women, on the whole, tend to have a more collaborative style of leadership, tend to be better at relationship building? Is that why we end up in this hierarchy of roles in technology?

It can be. It’s important that people do build on their strengths to take the next steps to develop themselves. Talking to women in the tech team often do see in themselves the greater ability to those relationships and help the team to collaborate than they see amongst the rest of the team. They feel like, “Someone has to do this job, so it’s important for me to step up and do it.” I think that there is that greater skill, but of course, everybody is different. What’s important is that we can recognize strengths based on what that person’s saying, doing, and what we hear from them rather than judging based on expectations due to their gender.

We’ve talked about how the architect is at the top of the hierarchy and perhaps, IT trainers or service desk at the bottom of the hierarchy. Not that I believe that, but that’s what the technology society feels that. What can the employers do differently to try and balance that out?

There are a few things. Firstly, it’s about giving everybody the opportunity to progress in their careers and breaking this pattern that I keep seeing where the women or the people in the ethnic minority groups saying, “We want to move into this particular area, but we can’t get there.” It’s making sure that there are opportunities for people to develop and move sideways into different roles. It’s important for that mobility between these hidden parts of the hierarchy. It’s also important to be reviewing pay scales and pay structures in terms of the pay gap, what is fair pay within each of the different roles, and making sure that that is equitable by gender so that within the different roles, there’s equal pay for the work that’s been carried out.

Status expectation starts aligning between what you see in the roles you’ve got in the world.

That’s something I noticed looking at an organization where the more technical roles were on a higher pay scale than the less technical roles, but the less technical roles were in some arguably more important and delivered more value to the business. It is about getting that equity across work that’s of the same value.

It’s interesting how work does get valued. There has been research that showed that for some fields, when more women enter those fields, it’s got the impact of de-valuing that particular piece of work because somehow, it’s not seen as such high status anymore. The organization is questioning what the value is coming from work and being sure to value equally things that are delivering that equal pay too.

It’s a tricky one because you want everybody to be doing the work that they’re good at, they enjoy, and get the most joy, but equally, you don’t want it to be that they’re excluded from a particular type of work because of the colour their skin, their gender, age, or anything. We’ve talked about network architects being at the top of the hierarchy. What is the best way for people to get that sideways move into that type of role or to go from testing to developing, for example?

A lot of the work that I’ve been doing is with agile teams who are self-organizing teams. Their team are empowered to make the decisions about how they do the work and break down the work to solve a particular challenge that their customer has got. Something that I advocate for is to be able to listen to people regardless of the formal job title they have. Everyone has got something to contribute into that understanding of the customer’s needs and turning that into what the solution will be. There’s great scope within agile teams for people to develop flexibility in the type of work they’re doing and to develop skills that are maybe adjacent to what they’ve started off with.

The work that I’ve been doing with agile teams and developing a program for is to help them to understand where that hierarchy is in their team and start breaking down some of the silos that get formed as a result of it. They enable people to contribute more broadly. This is great for individuals but for the team too, because you’ve not got all of these single points of failures that quite often form when the same person always gets the same type of task.

Do you find it had something to the team dynamics, somebody who’s primarily done testing starts to understand the developer’s role or the developer starts to understand the architect’s or the user experience role? Do you find it must add surely to the richness and the quality of the products you produce?

CGP 4 | Tech Industry Hierarchy
Tech Industry Hierarchy: Women will often find themselves being moved into more people roles, regardless of how technical they see themselves as. People need to build inclusion so that they can recognize each other’s strengths.

I can speak from my own personal experience having had a range of different roles within tech teams over time, some large and some small companies. Having that understanding from doing aspects of the work of the other roles transforms people’s ability to work together and collaborate effectively and appreciate the challenges and the inputs that they’re getting from across the team.

It always used to drive me nuts. I used to get very frustrated with our network architects because they would say, “Take the server down at 3:00.” We say, “I can’t just take the server down at 3:00 because that’s when the lawyers are going to be busy finishing their pitch documents or their tenders.” “What about 4:00?” I think, “Are you for real?” They don’t have any concept of what’s going on outside of their immediate silo I guess, which always struck me as quite bizarre that if you work in an organization, you’ve got to understand how the end users work. It always used to frustrate the hell out of me, but that was because I would always be on the more people’s side of technology. We’ve talked a bit about that hierarchy and how that reflects in society. What do you think we can all do to make a difference and change?

It’s important for team members to be reflective about what they see going on in the team and help essentially empower each other to be able to contribute their best. Looking around the team and asking yourself the question of, “Who’s not here? Who’s not in the room as we’re making decisions?” That’s a real key question. Often, when someone physically may not be there, they might be nobody of a particular gender represented in the room where it could be a specific person is excluded from a particular decision-making context or it could be that they speak up, but no one listens to what they have to say. The first thing that we can all do quite simply is to ask ourselves that within our context when we’re making decisions, who’s not here and how can we help? Bring them in and make sure that they’ve got a voice within those decisions.

In the work that you do, do you see that’s starting to make a difference where you’ve done that type of work with organizations?

There’s always something that people contribute that you don’t expect. When you get a different voice in the room, it opens up understanding it’s not just seen otherwise. One of the reasons this is so important within tech especially is as we’re building more systems that are making automated decisions about people, particularly with regards to artificial intelligence, the only way that we’re supporting the potential pitfalls and issue areas are when people who understand its application and how it can impact people who’ve got experience of that who can see from their own experience something that others who don’t have that experience or don’t notice. Often, it’s that broader understanding of the domain that comes from having lots of different diverse people represented is important for getting solutions that are equally beneficial for everybody.

Very often, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t have that lived experience, it might never hurt you to think about X because X isn’t anywhere on your horizon. I guess the higher up levels in the hierarchy ensure, invite or encourage the lower-level hierarchy to speak up, the more often they will have the confidence to speak up. For it to make a difference, it’s the stone in the pond and allowing the ripple effect to work its way out.

One case study that I love is this book, Rebel Ideas, by an author called Matthew Syed. He wrote about how one particular airline had transformed itself. It had a bad safety record based in South Korea where it’s a hierarchical society. They discovered an awful lot of the accidents that were happening. The second-in-command pilot had seen what was coming but had been unable to speak up effectively to warn the captain that there was a problem that needed urgent attention.

People should give everybody equal opportunity to progress in their careers.

What they did was train everybody to set expectations, empower the more junior members of the crew to be able to speak up, and raise the safety alerts. That completely turned around the safety record and, nowadays, an exemplary airline that has no issues at all in that regard. The oil and gas industry made very similar recommendations as a result of the deep-water horizon accident that there were lots of warning signs that weren’t effectively heard. Being able to recognize what the people who are on the ground are saying, but not at that point in a hierarchy where you expect to listen to them. That stuff really matters. We’ve got to hear what that is because that’s where some real key insights are coming from.

It’s incredible how the Korean Airline was able to turn around their safety records simply by influencing the hierarchy and giving everybody the permission to speak up and say something. That seems crazy that you’re having an accident because you’re too scared or you don’t have the right status to speak up about something. Thank you so much. I enjoyed this fascinating conversation. Finally, how can readers reach out to you to find out more about the work you do or the work that Inclusioneering does?

I’m quite active on LinkedIn. You can find me quite easily on LinkedIn under my name @JoStansfield, or you can take a look on the web at You can find me there too.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this conversation between me and Jo, where we started talking about the hierarchy in technology teams and how that affects the gender pay gap. I hope that’s been helpful for you.

Important links:

About Jo Stansfield

CGP 4 | Tech Industry HierarchyJo began her career as an engineer, progressing to senior management in leading global product development teams delivering enterprise software for the oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and marine sectors. Working in male-dominated industries sparked Jo’s curiosity about the lack of diversity she encountered and inspired her to pivot her focus from the technical to the human dimensions of engineering.

Having recently completed her MSc in Organisational and Business Psychology, Jo is now able to leverage her business psychology skillset in pursuit of companies’ DEI agenda.

Jo’s experiences have reinforced her belief that diverse perspectives and talent recruitment are fundamental to the sustainability of the technology industry, and for the markets and communities it serves.

CGP 3 | Career Friendly Workplace

How Being A Carer-Friendly Workplace Will Help You Close Your Gender Pay Gap

The demands of full-time work and balancing that with caring responsibilities can be extremely difficult.

In this episode, we explore:

  • The scale and impact of caring for elderly relatives on top of a full-time job
  • The working definition of a working carer
  • The challenges that working carers face
  • How this will be affecting your gender pay gap
  • What you can do to become a carer-friendly employer so that this doesn’t have a negative impact on your gender pay gap.

Key resources mentioned in this episode:

Book an exploratory chat:

I’m offering exploratory calls with me so that you can ask any questions you have about the work I do with technology companies on attracting, developing, and retaining your female talent so you can close the gender pay gap. If you’d like a totally transparent conversation about how working with me could support your organisation’s talent goals, email me to book a call now:

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If you’re looking to stay in touch with the latest industry trends, research, and best practice to develop and retain your female talent so that you close the gender pay gap in technology and bring major benefits to your organization in 2021 and beyond, sign up to my monthly newsletter here:

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Listen to the podcast here

How Being A Carer-Friendly Workplace Will Help You Close Your Gender Pay Gap

In this episode, I would like to explore with you how your working carers are affecting your gender pay gap and what you can do to support those carers in order to close your gender pay gap. The impact of COVID-19 and with more and more of us working from home on a permanent basis means that for the first time, many employers have gained much more of an understanding of how many of their employees do have caring responsibilities. I’m not talking here about those of us who are caring for children. Typically, we already know whether or not someone has got childcare responsibilities in our team or department. What I’m talking about are those people who have got caring responsibilities for elderly relatives and how this can affect your gender pay gap in ways that you might never even have thought about.

Having autonomy and power of flexibility in people’s working hours with caring responsibilities is valuable.

Before we look at what you can do to support those working carers, let’s first of all start by looking at the scale and impact of this across the UK. From that, you can extrapolate how this is likely to be affecting your workforce and how many of your workforce it is likely to be affecting. According to Carers UK, 6.5 million people in the UK are carers. Of those, approximately 40% are caring for a parent or a parent-in-law, 4% are caring for a grandparent and 7% for another relative, perhaps an uncle or a sister. If your carer is aged between 45 and 64, typically, these are the people who are going to be your senior leaders. They’re very likely to be caring for someone living elsewhere. For example, an elderly parent who is still living in their own home or sheltered housing.

What the NHS tells us is that 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, which adds on another whole complex layer to the caring responsibility. For about 72% of our working carers, that care that they provide, whether that’s a few hours a week or a day, that’s on top of full-time paid work. During the pandemic, during the research published during National Carers Week by Carers UK, we discovered that 72% of those working carers have not had a break at all during the pandemic. As you would expect, more of these carers are likely to be women than men.

Definition Of Working Carers

Working carers are people who work and have caring responsibilities. Throughout this episode, I’m focused specifically on those working carers who are caring for an elderly relative. There are two ways that this tends to happen. We have the gradual onset as a parent becomes more and more dependent, needing more medical care, less able to care for themselves and that gradually increases over time. You find yourself spending more and more time looking after that parent or going around to help them. We have a sudden onset that will follow an accident, illness or bereavement. I would like to share two stories that will give you an example of each of these scenarios.

CGP 3 | Carer Friendly Workplace
Career Friendly Workplace: Supporting the carers by promoting an open culture and providing training is essential.

“At the start, mom’s care needs were mainly physical and I would pop in once or twice a week, then she was diagnosed with dementia, too. It got harder on top of a long working week too. I even moved house so I could be nearer. There was no time left for me. Mom was no longer independent, but she didn’t want to go into a home.” In the second story, “I got the call you dread on New Year’s Eve. ‘It’s the London Ambulance Service. It’s your father. There’s nothing that can be done. We’re sorry.’ He was 85. It was a good age, but he had been full-time care of his wife with advanced dementia. My life turned upside down overnight because I couldn’t leave her. Carers were coming in three times a day to care for her, but it wasn’t enough. I ended up finishing my contract a month early to be able to cope.” That story is my personal story. It’s why I’ve got such a keen interest in how we support our caring workers, but also the impact that this is having on an organization’s gender pay gap.

Let’s look at what we mean by working carers. The working definition that was developed by Employers For Carers doesn’t include those individuals who are employed as a professional carer or whose caring role relates solely to a child or to children. When we talk about working carers, we’re talking about the people who are responsible for the care and support of relatives or friends, who are older, disabled or seriously ill, whether that’s physically or mentally and therefore unable to care for themselves. We see a whole range of experiences, from the carer who is providing a few hours a week to the carer who is providing constant support. That carer might be at home, but as we’ve already heard, the carers may well be traveling to support someone in their own home.

What we see is we have periods of high and low demand, depending on the health of that individual person that we’re caring for and the tasks that we’re doing. It might involve personal care. It probably involves handling finances, coordinating with medical and care services, doing the cleaning, cooking or doing the shopping. It can either be a gradual process as you start to realize that your parent or parents can no longer manage on their own or more of a sudden experience following illness, accident or bereavement as it did in my case.

Who are these people who are providing this care? Let’s explore a little bit more about them. What we do know is that women, especially over the age of 40, are more likely to take on caring responsibilities than men. In fact, when we look at the statistics, 1 in 4 women aged 50 to 64 is providing care. Look at that age, 50 to 64, women over the age of 40. That there are your senior leaders, the women who are at the peak of their careers, whether they’re in engineering, project management or service delivery. We are becoming the generation of sandwich carers. We’re having children later and we’re living longer. Women are much more likely to be sandwich carers, where we’re caring for both a young child and an elderly parent. In fact, the peak age for sandwich caring is 40 to 49.

Most caring workers are women who are forced to give up work at the peak of their careers, making a huge impact on their career progression.

Juggling the demands of full-time work and balancing that with caring responsibilities can be difficult. What we see is that there is a lack of carer-friendly workplace policies. For example, paid care leave or flexible working and this combined with a lack of sufficient, high quality and affordable social care services mean an increasing number of employees. Often, these caring workers are women. They’re forced to give up work at the peak of their careers. It has a huge impact on women’s career progression, as well as on their long-term financial security and the wider economy. Therefore, it’s going to have a big impact on your gender pay gap.

We know from the research commissioned by CIPD in 2020, in collaboration with The University of Sheffield, that in England and Wales, there are 3.7 million working carers. For 72% of those carers, they’re doing that care on top of full-time paid work. However, 44% of those working carers have said that they find it hard to combine paid employment and caring responsibilities. What we see is that they experienced difficulties with concentrating at work. They tend to reduce their working hours, so they feel able to cope. They will often turn down job offers, refuse to get a promotion or might decide against applying for a new role because they’re going through and experiencing emotional and physical exhaustion with high-stress levels and feeling completely overwhelmed.

They use up their annual leave or sick time in order to provide care, which means that they have no personal free time. In fact, many of them are in danger of burning out. They will often work at the weekends to make up the hours that they might have used during a normal working week on caring responsibilities. Interestingly, from the data, we see that there was a gender difference. Twenty-five percent of men had been able to take paid leave to provide care, compared with 15% of women. Is that because women might worry about how it might be perceived or maybe it’s that they’re already using that annual leave for childcare purposes?

It affects the gender pay gap because typically, the working carers are women. They struggle to balance their caring responsibilities with work commitments because they’re doing the caring on top of full-time paid work. In fact, only 2/5 of working carers believe that their employer was carer-friendly. More than a quarter of these working carers haven’t told anybody else at work about their caring role. One of the reasons they don’t tell anybody is because they believe that nothing would change even if they did. However, if you provide carers with the support that they need, it will benefit both the carer and you as the employer because it will help to improve employee well-being, reduce absenteeism, increase employee engagement and talent retention, and help to close your gender pay gap.

It affects opportunities for women on so many levels. It means that with those women, if they’re reducing their working hours or quitting to avoid burning out, you’re starting to see a lack of females in senior roles, which means it’s making it the norm for men to be visible as the decision-makers. Therefore, it affects how many female sponsors are available in your organization to sponsor those more junior women coming up, which means we’re continuing that cycle of a lack of gender diversity and female presence in senior roles. Effectively, we’ve become stuck in a traditional and inflexible way of working. Women are being excluded from those more senior roles in higher earning potential because they have external commitments, which are equally as inflexible. Caring for children and elderly relatives are not flexible responsibilities.

CGP 3 | Carer Friendly Workplace
Career Friendly Workplace: Having more women in senior-level roles has a direct, immediate, and tangible impact on the gender pay gap. It can also act as a catalyst for a less tangible and yet positive shift in cultural change.

Having more women in senior-level roles has a direct, immediate and tangible impact on the gender pay gap, but it can also act as a catalyst for a less tangible and yet positive shift in your cultural change. Half of the working carers felt that their caring responsibilities had affected their job. Most working carers have experienced difficulty concentrating at work because of their caring responsibilities. They’re feeling mentally and physically exhausted. They’re overwhelmed, stressed and burning out. That’s why 30% of these working carers have reduced their hours of work. Thirty-six percent of them have refused a job offer or promotion, or they’ve decided against applying for jobs because of their caring responsibilities and they can’t see how they’re going to be able to balance caring with working. Twenty-nine percent of them have said they’re considering reducing their working hours and 24% are thinking of giving up their job altogether because of their caring role. This will affect your overall gender pay gap.

From the research, we know that what working carers value most is being able to use the telephone or having private time to make and receive calls. That call to the GP or social care needs to be made during a normal working day. What’s also valued is being offered counseling or well-being support through your employee assistance program, a formal policy on unpaid or paid leave for carers and signposting to external sources of support. Working carers are so overwhelmed and lacking in free time that they simply don’t have the time to find out where else they can get support, what support is available, giving them guidance on organizational support. Perhaps providing a carer’s network or forum, having carers awareness days and making use of the National Carers Week to highlight the impact that this might be having on your workforce.

What’s valuable is having autonomy and flexibility in their working hours. It’s not just the flexibility in working hours, but it’s having the autonomy and power to decide how those working hours can be flexible. Flexible working, for example, the ability to work from home on some days, having access to job share, compressed hours or annualized hours. There are barriers to support. The carers simply don’t tell in their network. They don’t tell the HR and occupational health. They might not even have told their line manager. If they have done that, they’ve often done it on an informal basis, but 28% of these working carers haven’t told anyone at work at all.

There’s a general lack of awareness of what support is available within an organization. Even if people are aware that there is support available, there’s that lack of awareness of how to access that support. These people, typically women, are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. They have very little free time. They feel like they’ve got problems associated with how they organize their work and working time. They’re worried and concerned that if they ask for support that it’s going to damage their future career prospects and so they don’t tell anyone at work, which means they’re more likely to be experiencing overwhelm, stress and potentially burnout.

Women working carers go through emotional and physical exhaustion with high levels of stress and feeling of overwhelm.

Support Of Employers

As an employer, there are some things that you can do to help and support those working carers. The first thing is to have a carer policy or at least a framework or guidance, and including that, a clear definition of what it means to be a carer. To outline the different roles and responsibilities and, importantly, to communicate what your approach is so that you start to embed a culture of support. Flexible working for everyone, but at least introduce flexible working to support working carers. Make sure that when you hire, you’re hiring flexible. Be very transparent about your flexible working practices. What can be powerful is for you to empower line managers to support flexible workers in the way that suits the team or department.

You can also support those working carers by providing carer’s leave, whether that’s paid or unpaid. The one thing you do need to be aware of with a carer’s leave is that you need to be flexible and adaptable. If somebody needs a carer’s leave or if they need to take time off, it’s likely to be in an emergency. Therefore, it’s likely to be requested at very short notice. You can also help your line managers to support the carers by promoting an open culture, being knowledgeable about your organization’s approach to supporting carers. Providing training for those people who are managing teams or departments, so they know exactly what is available, how to signpost those working carers and get engaged senior leaders in supporting carers so that you start to create a more inclusive culture.

You can also provide information and peer-to-peer support. You could think of developing an in-house support group for carers or providing information on workplace support and make sure that’s readily available for everyone. If you’re not able to provide support in-house, then at least signpost to other sources of information. These working carers, these women who are your senior leaders, are short on time to research and find out what else is available. In summary, we are the sandwich generation. Women are more likely than men to take on those caring responsibilities and be taken on those caring responsibilities on top of a full-time paid job. Working carers tend to affect women who are at the peak of their careers. These sandwich carers are typically aged between 40 and 49. 1 in 4 women, age 50 to 64, is providing care.

Those women are your senior leaders. Those are the women who are becoming stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted. They’re burning out, which means that it’s affecting their productivity, creativity and decision-making. They turn down promotions, ask for reduced hours or quit altogether, which means that you’re losing women from the top and upper-middle quarters. You’re losing your role models. That means that your gender pay gap will stagnate or even widen.

I hope you found this useful to read about how you can support your working carers and how doing that will allow you to start to close your gender pay gap. If you would like a conversation about how to support your working carer so that you can start to close your gender pay gap, please do get in touch with me at

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back very soon.

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