Management Futures: August round-up

30 August 2013

Women. Men. Leadership. You won’t discuss these issues for long without generating heated debate, and so it proved in August. Gender is not the only dimension of diversity, which was the month’s theme, but it’s the one that caught fire. Aiding this was the CMI research, published mid-month, showing a startling gap between rewards for men and for women, especially on bonuses, which generated to considerable media coverage.

But is the gap all that it seems, and should the CMI focus on managerial excellence, not political correctness? Roger Metcalfe, CEO and founder of Sarium, threw down the gauntlet in a Linked-in discussion: ‘I ask the CMI, what is the wisdom of giving this issue such prominence, when the economic strength of this country lies in good management practice irrespective of gender issues?'

Patrick Woodman, head of external affairs at the CMI, responded by stating that any indication that rewards follow gender rather than performance is very much an economic issue. He wrote: ‘Roger - you're absolutely right about the economic strength of the country lying in good management practice, but our contention is that the data suggests that’s exactly what we’re missing when it comes to this issue.’

This picks up on a theme in the Management Futures August blog, which commented that diversity and equality debates had been framed by lawyers and politicians, and that business needs to find its own voice, with a vocabulary ‘that excites the entrepreneur and chief executive’. It appears from our poll results that CMI members dislike quotas, with around two-thirds opposed – but that doesn’t mean they’re opposed to more diverse leadership teams.

There was some discussion on the CMI Linked-in group as to whether pay comparisons are always comparing like with like – that is, lower rewards for women may reflect more career breaks and different industry sectors, rather than lower recognition or promotion. One study from the US indicated that the gender pay gap disappears or is even reversed if career breaks are fully taken into account (thanks to Colin Poynter for this link).

For many people – men as well as women – taking a career break can add to quality of life, and many people feel that income and power are not the sole measure of life’s success. This dimension was the focus of a BBC discussion in early August. It did involve people who have established their reputations and incomes, and who can perhaps afford to discuss other matters at leisure, but nonetheless it raises an often missing ingredient from this debate – one that was also picked up by CMI’s CEO Ann Francke in her blog for the Huffington Post.

When it comes to promotion of leaders, there is another dimension that is rarely aired, but which popped up on the CMI Linked-in discussion. To what extent is the gender pay gap a proxy for deeper issues that go to the heart of what we as human beings look for in a leader? We thank Anas Hamadani for drawing attention to a report in the Harvard Business Review indicating that it may not be maleness itself that is over-promoted, but high personal confidence, which just happens to be commoner in men – at least in a corporate setting. So the gender pay gap may be a by-product of an atavistic human instinct. It’s still a issue to be acknowledged, however, because a highly confident leader can be a disaster.

Who’s saying you can’t go ‘deep’ in a CMI discussion blog?

Stay tuned: in September we look at business ethics. Don’t expect the debating temperature to dip.

Submitted by Patrick Woodman

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