Leveling the playing field – WIRE

Letitia Oglesby
November, 2015

Around 100 women and a handful of brave men attended the meeting, kindly hosted by Linkedin.   The evening was organised by Elina Halonen who has conducted some research based on various academic studies into whether being a woman makes it more difficult to progress within our industry.  We were challenged by the statement above and I have to admit it took me a while to realise that the surgeon was the boy’s mum.

I was particularly interested in Elina’s research as ENI conducted a large research study with Chime Insight and Engagement ‘Researching a Career’ that shows that one of the least attractive sides of our industry is the lack of clear career ladder.  This makes it difficult for those in the industry to know how, and what is needed to progress, for both sexes.

On the whole I have found Market Researchers to be analytical, considered and therefore fair.  So I wasn’t surprised when the first part of Elinas research showed that the respondents, taken from across market research, didn’t favour men over women when it came to salary, ‘likeability’ and chances of hiring.  In fact in all areas women did slightly better and interestingly, men in particular seemed to favour women rather than men, when it came to salary.

The second part of the research looked at whether we describe the same traits in women and men differently.  For example are men assertive and women bossy?  As a result is it harder for women to be respected in the working environment?

When training as a recruiter one of the things I was asked to do was list where I felt I discriminated.  Chris Brown the Talent Director of Linkedin goes one step further, his team discuss the language they use to describe different people.  We all agreed that being very open and aware of the language we use and any prejudices this reflects, really helps eliminate discrimination.

One reason for the different words to describe the different sexes, is certain traits are more commonly applied to women whilst other traits are more commonly applied to men.  I felt this wasn’t discriminatory but instead reflected the different drivers commonly found between men and women.  In the 30 years I have been recruiting women I have often found that women are more likely to be looking for quality of life, flexibility, and enjoyment.  Whereas men are more likely to be driven by financial considerations.  In the past this has held women back, but as Caroline Hayter from Acacia Avenue rightly pointed out, company culture is changing.  Millennials of both sexes are thinking more about work life balance, and this change means it is easier now for women to take family life into consideration and progress just as rapidly as men.

Market Research employs a lot of women.  The Researching a Career study by ENI and Chime Insight and Engagement shows that a problem for the industry, is it is hugely complex and lacks clear structure, making progression more difficult.  It may be that because women are often the ones that have to juggle and cope with complexity at home, they find the lack of a career ladder within research less of a problem?

Elina’s research will be published in Impact magazine in January.

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