Corporate America has worked hard for the past several decades to try to solve the problem of wage inequality between the genders. It is commonly known that women earn only about 75% of the income that men in similar roles with similar experience earn. This injustice pushed many companies to pursue more women in leadership positions.

The hope was that as more women moved into leadership positions in companies, the wage gap would naturally narrow, because surely women managers would treat their female employees fairly. Unfortunately, a new study performed at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business shows that this is not the case. According to the Fast Company article, Why Isn’t Having More Women in Leadership Budging the Gender Wage Gap? by Lydia Dishman, women who have female managers actually have a slightly lower wage than women with male managers. The study found that women who switched from a male manager to a female manager could expect a pay decrease of about 1.4%. While this is a small percentage, it is a move in the wrong direction for women’s pay overall. Plus the distinction became greater if the female employee was low-performing. Low-performing female employees could expect to make 30% less than an equally low-performing male employee who switched from a male manager to a female manager.

The theory is that women who have risen to the top of corporations have had to work really hard to earn their place. These women have a competitive drive and some of them aren’t interested in making it any easier for the women that will come after them. The article interviewed Nancy Mellard, the national leader of CBIZ Women’s Advantage, which is a professional services firm:

Mellard argues that women managers must start taking the tools they have been learning and internalizing, such as negotiating salary and standing up for a deserved promotion, and apply those to how they manage their teams.

I have been a strong advocate for this approach for many years. I actively mentor many women at all stages of their careers, and I encourage these women to do the same. By taking on these mentoring roles, we are able to identify emerging talent and future leaders while also helping to promote women who are earlier in their careers. Here are a few simple approaches that leaders can take to promote and support future women leaders:

  • Actively identify future female leaders – think about your business pipeline of leadership talent
  • Establish formal and informal mentoring programs – not all mentoring requires a massive time commitment – find something that works for you both
  • Intentionally review the salaries of your employees, keeping an eye out for gender bias – it’s easier once you become aware of any biases you may have
  • Give frequent feedback to rising leaders and offer new opportunities on a regular basis.

Nina Nets It Out: Women in leadership positions positively impact business performance – but we need to be actively inclusive. Put mentoring programs in place, review your teams and cultivate leaders and leadership where and whenever you find it.