Three key skills could close the gender pay gap by 2044

08 March 2017

The generation of women that graduates from university in 2020, in developed economies, may be the first generation that will see equal wages relative to men during their professional careers.

Global consulting firm Accenture has carried out research on wage equality. More than 28,000 men and women, including students, from 29 countries* participated in the study**. The sample included equal representation of men and women of three generations (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers), from all staff levels at companies of different sizes.

According to the report, titled 'Getting to Equal in 2017, the pay gap can be reduced if women use three skills effectively during their careers, and if they are supported by the industry, government and academia. By applying the key skills, the pay gap may, in developed markets, reach parity by 2044, 36 years faster than without such a focus. In emerging markets, the skills can shorten the time to parity by over a hundred years, whereby equality is reached in 2066 rather than in 2168, according to the researchers.

Time to close the pay gap

The research found that women are paid $100 on average compared to the $140 on average paid to men. Additionally, women are less likely to work than men (50% vs. 76%), which contributes to the ‘invisible pay gap’ which again exacerbates the economic inequality between men and women.

"The future workforce must consist of an equal labour pool. The gender gap is an economic and crucial competitive factor that affects everyone. We must therefore take steps to create opportunities for women, whereby the gap can be quickly closed," said Manon van Beek, Country Managing Director at Accenture in the Netherlands.

Woman are much less likely than men to have paid work

The researchers indicate that there are a number of critical factors which influence the opportunities for women in relation to receiving equal pay. Dutch female students are in fact less likely to choose, compared to male students, a field of study wherein there is a potential to earn large salaries (11% vs. 21%), they are less likely to have a mentor (30% vs. 50%) or seek to a senior management position (14% vs. 29%). Moreover, it appears that young women use less new technologies (21% vs. 50%) and are less inclined to follow coding and computer science courses (45% vs. 78%).

Actions and attributes that affect work and pay

Three skills

The ‘2017 Getting to Equal’ report, which follows a previous report from 2016, emphasises three skills that are part of the solution to bridge the pay gap. The first is 'digital fluency', the extent to which people use digital technologies to connect, learn and work. Further, "set goals", the need for women to aim high, to make informed choices and proactively manage their career. And, finally, technological literacy, the ability to develop digital and tech skills, just as quickly as men.

By applying these skills, combined with support from industry, government and academia, the wage gap could already be reduced by 35% by 2030, the researchers write.

The impact of Digital Fluency - Cereer Strategy and Tech Immersion

“Gender equality is an essential part of a workplace, this includes wages," says Pierre Nanterme, Accenture's chairman and CEO. "Industry, government and academia all have to play an important role in bridging the gap. The cooperation between these organisations is the key to facilitating the right opportunities, environment and role models that the lead the way towards change.”

* Countries included in the study are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

** The survey data was analysed using econometric models to identify the drivers of equal pay and career-promoting factors, and combined with the published data on education, employment, leadership and research by the World Bank, OECD, World Economic Forum and the UN, then measuring the impact of possible measures to improve equality. The pay gap calculations are based on the economic model of Accenture, taking into account the lower percentage of women than men in paid employment.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.