SmartRecruiters Blog

Women in Work 2018: Is the Movement for Gender Equality Actually “So Last Year”?

Sexist algorithms, Saudi women takeover ride-sharing, #metoo hurts women, the New Zealand PM makes history, and much-much more from Women in Work this year.

When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, is 2018 just riding 2017’s coattails? Last year was all like, “#metoo! Highest number of female CEOs in fortune 500 companies ever! Women’s March!” This year is all like –  Men afraid to work with women… Number of female CEOs dips by 25 percent… Oh, and by the way, Facebook is sexist.”

2018 is not without its charms. The recent lift on the female driving ban in Saudi Arabia and New Zealand’s PM making history by taking maternity leave are all hopeful signs that good things are happening, but did last year’s sprint tire us out for the marathon? Read on and decide for yourself.

Sexist Algorithms

When three economists used Facebook to advertise STEM jobs, they found the posts were more likely to be shown t o men, but why? It’s actually because women are more valuable. Think about it, women tend to control more of the household budget so companies will pay more to target them. The algorithm working on the normally sound principle of maximizing return on investment will then opt for surfacing these job posts to men.

The trio of researchers: Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, explain to companies like Facebook that this behavior is an unfortunate consequence of the “black box,” but hard to correct lest the algorithm become as discriminatory as implicit human bias, a concept from which companies are now trying to distance themselves.

New Zealand’s PM Makes History

Thirty-seven-year-old PM Jacinda Ardern makes history as the second world leader to give birth while in power, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990, and the first head of state to take maternity leave. Though Arden will only be taking six weeks to be with her newborn daughter, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, (about the same time President Barack Obama took off yearly while in office, and less time than George W Bush), she was not immune to criticism online.

Mixing and Matching Gender on Surgical Teams

World’s leading behavioral expert for animals turns attention to humans and finds mixed gender teams perform better.

Frans de Waal had a crazy thought: could the same methods used to documents and analyze chimpanzee behavior be applied to humans to evaluate and improve surgical teams?

Waal’s researchers – including colleague Laura K Jones from Emory University, Atlanta Georgia, who carried out the field work – studied the interactions of 400 doctors, nurses, and technicians over the span of 200 surgeries. They recorded the communications as either “cooperative” or “conflictive,” the former leading to better surgical outcomes and the latter likely to jeopardize the patient.

What they found was that predominantly male teams, with a male lead, were twice as likely to experience conflictive behavior than those lead by a woman – 21.3 percent likelihood on women-lead teams to 50.6 percent on male-lead teams.

For majority female teams, the gender of the leader didn’t affect the percentage of conflictive behavior, but most intriguing, collaborative interactions on teams were always higher where the gender of the leader differed from the bulk of the underlings.

That’s important when you consider 70-80 percent of surgical mishaps are directly caused by the interactions of the team going awry. The solution? In the the long term it’s recruiting more women into the now male-dominated profession; for now, hospitals will have to make due with shuffling personnel.

Read full study: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

India’s Women Are Out of Work, Is this Progress?

From the already meager fraction of 35 percent in 2005, to now only 26 percent, India’s women are disappearing from the workforce (both formal and informal) at an alarming rate, the Economist reports. But why?

Some reasons for this drop in female workers are actually harbingers of progress, like girls staying in school longer, while other explanations belie the faulty structure of India’s precarious economy.  For instance, India never went through a manufacturing stage like its neighbor Bangladesh, which has increased their female employment rate to 50 percent since 2005. Without clothing factories, “unskilled” women’s main place in the economy is agricultural, but with the rise of mechanization, that is disappearing as well.

As for educated women, well, they face a different challenge in the form of persistent social mores that prize marriage and childbearing. More schooling below university level, ironically, decreases the likelihood a woman will work. As education makes for a more desirable bride, and a stay at home partner brings prestige to the family unit, higher education often ends up just being a heftier scorecard for being a rich housewife. Wealthier women, as such, are pressured by their husbands to drop out of the workforce, to show how much money the man is really making. Not working is a prestige thing.

The last piece of the puzzle is job scarcity. India has very few jobs in ratio to its population. Government posts routinely receive upwards of one-thousand applicants, and there is a general agreement that men should have the first pick over women, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields like engineering.

In industries like media and publishing, there has been a female incursion, with top newsroom and editorial positions held by women. Keep an eye to the communication sector to see where India’s female workforce will continue to grow.

Men Penalized More Than Women for Staying Home

In a recent study from from Harvard Business Review, assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina University, Kate Weisshaar, found that stay-at-home-dads are the least likely to be called in for a job interview, below unemployed workers, laid-off works, and even stay-at-home-moms (who are already half as likely as laid-off women to be contacted).

When managers were asked to rate these resumes in terms of level of skill, reliability and merit, stay-at-home-dads ranked lowest every time, even though the absence from the workforce was the same (18 months) in every resume.

Another study form the University of Michigan, which examined the effect of part time work on lawyer salaries, yielded further evidence that men are penalized more than woman when they reduce hours to share the burden of childcare. While the average decrease of a woman’s salary was 4.8 percent annually, men saw their wages decrease 2.9 percent monthly.  

Saudi Women in the Driver’s Seat

The ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia was lifted this year on June 24th, in a sweeping decision by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Though the world remains skeptical of Salman’s motives given that 17 feminist activists are still in detention for protesting the ban, many women are already looking forward to the possibilities this new “privilege” may afford, including the ability to work.

Sara al-Theeb, a 30-year-old employee of HSBC, recounts to the Financial Times in 2017 her difficulty in finding a job, saying, “it [was] challenging. Men have the advantage of driving. Whenever there is a sudden visit to a client, I can’t accommodate that.”

Ten women have been issued licenses to date, and over 120,000 have applied.

Already ride-sharing apps like Careem (the Uber of the Middle East) are looking to recruit from this new talent pool. Over 2,000 women have applied, and a small number have already been hired (mainly women with international licenses in the process of being transferred).

Given that educated women outnumber men by 105,494 to 98,210, in Saudi Arabia, it would be no surprise if other industries soon follow suit.

Is #metoo Hurting Women?

A Lean In Institute survey reveals that three times as many male managers are now uncomfortable at the idea of mentoring a woman in the wake of #metoo. The number that has risen from 5 percent, to 16 percent, still a small fraction of male leadership, is important because it reveals an attitude that sexual harassment is something that one just happens into, merely by being alone with a female colleague.

However, the 2010 World Economic Forum Report suggests that women are “over mentored” and ‘under–sponsored,’ meaning mentors don’t, as often, use their clout within the company to get get their female mentees promoted.

“Among survey participants who had active mentoring relationships in 2008, fully 72 percent of the men had received one or more promotions by 2010, compared with 65 percent of the women.” – Harvard Business Review.

So maybe fewer one-on-one chats and a little more recommendation writing wouldn’t be so bad afterall.

Revlon Appoints First Female CEO, but It’s Just A Cosmetic Fix.

For the first time in Revlon’s 86 year history, a woman, Debra Perelman, is appointed CEO. And while the choice garnered much favorable press for the beauty giant, it comes amidst a sharp dip in the number of female CEOs and board members decrease in S&P fortune 500 companies overall.

Female CEOs in this exclusive echelon of the business world have decreased by 25 percent in the past year, from 32 to 25. Staples, Avon, eBay and Campbells Soup, to name a few, all said goodbye to their female CEOs in 2018, and almost all have been replaced by men. With 2017 as an all-time high, the old two steps forward, one step back, feels very real.

Wage Disparity Greatest in Tech Hubs

Progress towards wage parity between men and women has been grossly stagnant in the last 15 years, and a new report reveals that our glittery tech metropolises aren’t helping.

Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area are found to have the widest gender pay disparity, at 30 percent and 20 percent respectively. In an analysis of 25 major US cities from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that the pay gap between men’s and women’s salaries hovers at 19 percent, in line with the findings of the US census. Of course, this isn’t the whole story.

The wage gap is more complicated than a blanket average. Even the widely touted statistic of women making 79 cents for every man-made dollar is misleading, as it ignores factors of race, profession, and location. In every city surveyed, black women fare worse than their white counterparts, and Latina women are paid the least of all measured demographics. For instance, in Tampa, Florida, where the wage gap is the lowest in the US, white women make 89 percent of what white men earn, while black women earned 65 percent, and Latina women only 61 percent.

Do women choose lower-paying professions? Yes, women tend to cluster in certain professions (men do too) and the female cluster is lower on the pay scale. (Elementary school teachers, RNs, and Secretaries being the most popular female professions). However, even when working in the same sector, men still tend to make more. For example, in the Seattle tech world, the average salary for a female employee is $110,000, while for males it’s $143,000, found a 2016 survey from Comparably.

Speaking of tech, the same study discovered that the tech wage gap is surprisingly 17 percent above the national norm, at a whopping average of 36 percent across the 16 cities surveyed. When we break down that number further we find that finance, marketing, and business development are the biggest offenders, while women in administrative roles actually earn seven percent more than their male counterparts.

Come on 2019, we’re already expecting big things from you. Sincerely, Women.

Kaya Payseno