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Why do women lose out?

08 August 2016


The issue of gender diversity is recognised widely as a business issue by corporates of all shapes and sizes and not just financial and professional services. Many large businesses are now setting themselves targets to significantly increase the number of women they employ within senior roles alongside setting up networking forums for female staff. In doing so, they are undoubtedly balancing skill sets and providing role models to female employees and graduates looking to enter the sector.

So why are women losing out on senior job roles? Are there any underlying factors preventing success? 

Audrey Dadon, Manager, Switzerland, is today's guest writer.

Spending a rainy evening at Zurich airport waiting for my flight leaves me with little to do other than speculate over which candidate I'm placing my bets on to get the senior role that I'm currently recruiting for. My thoughts go over the interview feedback from client and candidates. There is a man and a woman. Who gets my bet? Who would I hire if I was the client? It suddenly comes to my mind that a woman in this role would look very good in the male dominant team. 

If the incumbent gets it wrong, there is a reputational risk, not only to the incumbent themselves, but certainly to my client. It is all about "who can perform". How do we judge that?

My thoughts drift back to the impressions both candidates left. How did they sell themselves? The male candidate comes across as extremely confident. He is convinced he can do the job. Feedback he gives to me is that he is not sure he wants to. It will all come down to how my client can convince him to join and he already pushes the boundaries of what we can possibly negotiate on the financial side.

Then there is the feedback of the female candidate. She is highly technical, highly competent and has proven herself in her current role. She feels one of the (male) interviewers did not come across very interested in her. Also there is this one criteria on the (lousy) job spec I gave her, that she does not quite fit which makes her think she's not been successful.

The obvious favourite to get this role seems to be the male candidate. Why? During the interview he 1) brings a few key ideas of how he will perform, 2) sets out his criteria for his next career move, 3) says he needs time to think and compare it with other current offers.

The result: 1) Client is impressed; they share the same view, 2) and starts thinking if they can meet the criteria to get this candidate on board, because 3) he must be attractive if there are other players.

Regarding the female candidate, the client clearly recognises her intellect yet wonders if she really wants the job. She did not ask for the job, neither presented clear arguments as to why she would be the one to hire. 

My dear fellow women, this is not one scenario. There have been countless in my decade of recruiting. It seems to be an inborn character trait  to analyse and over analyse and wonder how we came across. Should we have said that or not? Should we have applied at all? Is this the right job, the perfect opportunity?

Often we intuitively know what to do, decide or say. We automatically seek to connect with the other person, with a situation or an atmosphere. This can be a great advantage if we use it for constructive purposes. For example: “I sense that my conversation partner is dominant. They do not have the patience to listen to a long and detailed story. So let me adjust my style and present the key facts rather than the detail.” Our ability to observe behaviour allows us to pick up and respond to signals that others might not notice.

Intuition and sensitivity are not the only gifts that women have. Our ability to arbitrate; find win-win solutions and bring parties together is another one. Most of us are pragmatic, doers. If there's a problem we find a solution. Let's get down to business and sign the deal or move on. 

These are just some of our gifts. They are what make us successful and earn us that leadership seat next to the men. It is not about being "like a man" to be successful, it's about confidence. 

Confidence is understanding your value, knowing your goals, as well as setting your boundaries and communicating this clearly, without feeling guilty about it. It is believing in yourself and convincing others to do the same. It is knowing your market value and daring to negotiate to get that value in your bank account.

We cannot individually control issues like pay gaps, equal seats on the board, work-family balance. For that we need support of lobby groups, C-level executives, and politicians. So let's work on what we can control, which is the ability to believe in ourselves and make confident and brave steps to get to the destination we have chosen.

 (And remember to inspire others to do the same. That's another one of our gifts!)

 The recruitment scenario described is not an assignment currently ongoing and some details have been omitted or added to protect the candidate's and client's confidentiality. 

Are you interested in new opportunities? Contact Audrey Dadon +41 43 508 0444 

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