Today we are blessed to have female wonder women in business to lift us to new realms of possibility, providing us with the inspiration to reach new heights and possibilities. The business prowess of women is not a new phenomenon nor is it something which has arrived linearly to the emergence of increased scrutiny surrounding pay equality and workplace practice. To put this simply, the pay gap and workplace equality argument hasn’t arisen because women have just discovered and developed a credible business acumen for the first time – because this has been the case for decades. Moreover, it is because women are now ready to air their grievances and rightly so. Now, it’s all about making sure they are heard and by the right ears.
The global issue of gender inequality as a whole is far from dealt with, particularly within the workplace. According to the recent report by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) the gender pay gap between CEO’s and business leaders is still at a staggering 55%, when measured on a like-for-like scale and female CEOs are still typically making 77% less than their male counterparts. It’s shocking that in a world in which a champion female skater can become a diplomat at the Asian State Department, the female head of marketing at Coca-Cola can be named by Fortune as one of the most influential women in the world, Germany and New Zealand’s heads of government are female, the gender pay gap is still rife. Media coverage is no longer an issue with increased coverage on the issue resulting in increased awareness, yet the call to action is still not met by corporations and senior figures.
Not only are gender stereotypes and pay inequalities prevalent issues amongst female CEOs and the workforce today, but we have in fact been tackling this issue from childhood. The gender pay gap actually starts in the home. Perhaps subconsciously we have subjected to and are now even feeding into the gender pay gap issue at a grassroots level, with a recent report highlighting that parents in the UK are paying their sons more than twice as much as their daughters for household chores and allowances.
In essence, this suggests that society is raising women to accept that they deserve less than men, in terms of pay and ambitions. From a young age, girls are taught to be modest, never selfish, to listen to others, to not be controversial or bold and to ultimately not be ambitious because at the end of the day, our primary goal is to settle down with a husband and create the perfect family. Women who defy this ideal are questioned, resented or even pitied as leading a supposedly unfulfilled life.
We need more balance, we need more diversity and we need to stop this cycle once and for all. We desperately need a critical mass of educated, economically independent and powerful women who will reach top positions in economics, science, finance, and politics, in order for them to change the very basis of our existence.
Misogynistic societies are very much known to supress the views of strong women and there is often the lack of powerful female role models to encourage young girls to break out against these feminine expectations. It is important that in a society where women are making major headway for female empowerment, compared to a decade ago, we are still doing what we can to ensure we are making further progress. Starting with the gender pay gap. While big steps have been taken by the government to ensure companies are publicly disclosing their pay gap figures, there is still a lot more to be done – transparency clearly isn’t a large enough deterrent.
The attitude towards women in the workplace as whole needs to change from the current archaic values we are still experiencing today. Women in the workplace, particularly CEOs need to create more noise around this issue and not stand too complacent with society as it stands.
The number of female owned companies has definitely grown in the past decade but they are still a minority. Female CEOs and entrepreneurs are continuing to face hurdles that are very different compared to the struggles faced by their male counterparts, whether it be funding or critical board decisions. Most women are starting out in industries that are still predominantly male dominated where gaining the respect from their male colleagues can be a struggle from the get-go.
The fear of failure is an obstacle faced by all CEOs and entrepreneurs, men and women a-like. Women in particular, must not let societal pressures keep them from making bold decisions, doing what they want and how they want, and ultimately, be whatever they want to be and not what anyone expects them to be.
Born in Italy and now based in London, Paola Diana has dedicated her life to championing sexual equality in business and politics in the UK and Italy. Paola founded the organisation PariMerito (Equal Merit), which she used to lobby the Italian Government to pass new equality laws in the workplace, including a new bill requiring every company board to have minimum 30% female representation. She is also an entrepreneur, starting her first business as a single mother of two. Her hugely successful Diana Group comprises three separate businesses and has established itself as a market leader in recruitment and lifestyle services -recognised as one of London’s most influential service providers for high net worth individuals, families and corporations around the world.