Potential barriers to progress
This is just some of the data highlighting that women are taking a narrower career path in technology compared with men and may have fewer opportunities for advancement1,2.
Potential barriers could include:
Training is usually designed as a regular and continuous pathway. However, this can get sidetracked when women take time away from their work, for example to care for family. Education opportunities can become limited, causing a lack of training and qualifications to become a barrier to advancing from support roles into engineering and technical roles, as shown in Figure 1.
A broken career pattern and ongoing carer responsibilities can also limit women from participating in traditional leadership pathways, which often involve multi-day offsite programs and other activities and responsibilities that demand extended working hours. Women’s lower representation in management and executive roles is reflected in Figure 1.
After three years of allowing remote working, some organisations mandating a return to office are facing resistance, especially from women and others who benefit from being able to design their working hours and location around family responsibilities3. Our research1,4 shows that offering flexible working patterns and health and wellbeing support can help to improve employee wellbeing. Flexible working patterns are also critical for achieving diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) goals, yet only 58% of Asia Pacific companies integrate their wellbeing strategy with DE&I compared to 85% globally5. Having a model that supports flexible and remote work can be promoted as a key point of difference and can become a source of competitive advantage for technology companies looking to hire and retain talent, especially if employees’ needs are met at various life and employment stages.
Building an inclusive structure and culture
Barriers can be addressed by reviewing and overhauling recruitment and career advancement frameworks and processes in the following areas:
Accurate data is vital for effective action on hiring and performance management processes. Organisational data on pay gap, performance management and career advancement can help to define gender equality goals and inform strategies. It can also provide essential context to pay gap reporting and messaging to inform stakeholders and manage any brand and reputation impacts.
Data from our Radford Global Compensation Database shows that within tech organisations, males tend to move up the ranks faster and are more highly rewarded for loyalty than females. Designing a formal job architecture with DE&I in mind can help to combat this, providing the framework for equitable talent and reward programs, as outlined in this article.
Job architecture is made up of the many elements that align jobs and compensation. This includes job leveling, titling, grades and career progression and provides the foundation for salary structures and other equitable compensation programs based on job value. When communicated correctly, a well-designed job architecture can provide employees and candidates with a clear career path they can understand how to navigate while giving organisations a way to monitor, understand and remediate pay gaps.
A properly implemented performance management system has been shown to significantly improve the employee experience for females. Therefore, HR leaders need to examine performance management data to identify inconsistencies and use insights to develop a more consistent process for driving equal advancement opportunities.
- Scientific skills assessment
Unconscious bias can pose a barrier to inclusive recruitment and career advancement decisions. However, assessments can be used to help mitigate this risk.
According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Research in Personality6, there is a significant correlation between personality traits and job performance across various occupations and industries. So, by combining insight into skills and personality to predict a person’s potential for success in a role and identifying specific training needs, a thorough assessment process can account for gender differences.
Organisations often think of pre-employment assessments as being primarily about candidate selection, but they can also play a vital role in internal talent mobility strategies. The results of tests carried out during recruitment can be used to create career development plans and assess an employee’s best options for future assignments, training opportunities and professional development. Organisations can regularly assess employees to identify those with the potential to take on leadership roles or reskill into emerging functions.
By taking a proactive approach to gender equality and communicating effectively on actions and outcomes, companies can help employees and candidates understand how they can compete on an equal footing for rewards and career opportunities, as well as support brand and organisational values.
Providing clear career paths within the company and demonstrating respect for different life stages and career choices are key components of offering a sustainable working life. While not everyone aspires to management roles, employees still want to be valued for their contribution and offered opportunities to grow.
Aon’s Talent Advisory team offer specialised guidance on a wide range of people risk issues, including gender pay equity and transparency, among other DE&I matters. For more information or to talk to a consultant about the needs of your workforce, please contact us.
- Radford Global Compensation Database | Aon
- Australian Government, Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Pay Gap Data
- Big Test for Return to The Office Starts Now, Australian Financial Review, July 2023
- Rising, Resilient, a Report by Aon, 2021
- Aon’s 2022-2023 Global Wellbeing Survey
- Five-factor personality domains and job performance: A second order meta-analysis by Yimin He,M., Brent Donnellan, Anjelica M. Mendoza, cited in Journal of Research in Personality, Vol. 82, October 2019