Learning curve: Gender-based earnings gap

by Tracy Clayson

Recently there have been signs the job market is looking brighter.

There’s also been some good news about the earning potential of supply chain professionals. The 2013 Annual Survey of the Canadian Supply Chain Professional shows a 3.2 percent increase in salaries over 2012 numbers, with the average rising from $85,178 to $87,908.

But while these upward trends are encouraging, the same study shows the gender gap in earnings still exists. In 2012, women earned 17.7 percent less than men, and in 2013 they are getting 17.6 percent less. This year, women in supply chain have an average salary of $77,842 while men earn $94,492.

Clearly, in the supply chain sector, the gap between male and female earners isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. The biggest area of concern is a growing wage gap among managers.

A 2013 salary survey conducted by the Institute of Supply Chain Management (ISM) shows the gender gap for earnings widens with higher-level positions. A chief of procurement/supply chain position, for example, pays an average of $272,900 for men and $122,875 for women.

According to the Canadian data from the Annual Survey of the Supply Chain Professional, women who have between 20 and 25 years’ of experience working in supply chain only earn 78 percent of men with the same number of working years.

Today, women represent only 18 percent of all leadership positions, with one-third of all Financial Post 500 companies reporting zero females in senior officer positions. Catalyst.org, which provided these statistics, describes this dearth of woman in top roles as both glaring and disappointing—and I agree.

Perhaps it’s time for female supply chain leaders to make better use of the salary survey statistics and other information to target companies that have been embracing female leaders.

And, when the work they do helps companies operate more efficiently and improves relationships with clients, vendors and employees, women should make every effort to proclaim their accomplishments in order to enhance their own career opportunities. Just like men, more women need to learn to take credit when it’s due.

Women typically must also become better at negotiating salary terms. Sheryl Sandburg, COO of Facebook and the author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, argues that many women only feel comfortable asking for a raise using a senior member of their team as a buffer. She also says many others fail to counter offer at all when negotiating salary. In the book, she quotes a study at Carnegie Mellon University that found 57 percent of male students negotiate for a higher offer but only seven percent of females tried to do so.

“I have advised many women to preface negotiations by explaining that they know that women often get paid less than men so they are going to negotiate rather than accept the original offer,” Sandberg says.

It’s helpful advice, but it’s only one of the remaining issues to solve. Too many women continue to earn less than men, and this frustrating trend will continue unless there is a joint effort by employers and female leaders and influencers.

Still, the message that too few women are being hired—and too few are being fairly compensated—isn’t getting through to enough Canadian businesses.

A 2011 report by Mercer Human Capital Consulting shows Canada lags behind the rest of the world in efforts directed to increasing female leadership. In this country, 82 percent of firms do not have a strategy to promote women. Globally, that number is 71 percent.

Additionally, 20 percent of American firms expressed concerns over the lack of female leadership (within organizations), but only about eight percent of firms in Canada cited the same concerns. When it comes to putting more women in leadership positions, in Canada we don’t appear to see the urgency.

All leaders should be recognized for their abilities based on merit. Legislating equity is a poor substitute for opening the corporate world’s eyes to the facts.

Canada is missing a key strategic talent sourcing advantage. We have qualified women who are not getting the jobs they deserve. This disconnect is stifling organizational development and success, and it is dragging down the careers of countless women.

A high percentage of organizations—in Canada and elsewhere—talk about their great diversity and progressive hiring policies. But, as long as the numbers aren’t supporting their claims, we have work to do. Corporations need to start walking the talk.

Tracy Clayson is managing partner, business development at Mississauga, Ontario-based In-Transit Personnel.